Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Last of Five

It's incredible what a shower can do for my mood.  I'd been a big blob of blah on my couch all day until I showered this evening.  Anything and everything went through my mind.  I thought about what I was doing on this day five years ago, I thought about what I was doing on March 4th five years ago.  (I chose not to think about what I was doing on March 3rd five years ago)  Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of TJ's death.  It's remarkable how much I have changed.  It's remarkable what I have accomplished.  It's remarkable the song that just came up on my play list.  The lyrics are "Are you alone, are you alive?  Are you the sun, are you the sky?  Are you forever or are you tonight?"  How could I have known on this day, five years ago, that it would be our last night together?  It was just any other night and yet it is forever burned into my mind.

Memories are so interesting.  I heard once that each time we remember something, we're only remembering the last time we remembered it.  So, like a game of telephone, I'm sure my memories of TJ have become distorted.  I'm ok with that.  I like my memories exactly as they are (and now he's not here to argue with me about who remembers things correctly).  Joking aside, the memories I have of the days immediately before, during, and after TJ's death are intense.  The ones that have come up the most today are the really good ones.  Like how, the night before he died, I got home from work at a decent time, did two rounds of a Bhangra dancing workout, took a shower, and danced around the kitchen with soapy arms as I did the dishes and sang at the top of my lungs.  He got home late from his grad school class and I skipped to the stairs, soapy arms and all, to kiss him.  Another memory that came up was that of the day after TJ died.  I had so much to do as soon as I woke up.  We had a meeting at the funeral home at 8am to choose a casket and discuss all the details of the viewing and funeral.  From there we had to go straight to the cemetery to choose a plot.  A mere hour between that and the meeting at the church was all I had for rest.  And in that hour my parents and I went home to have lunch.  My friend unexpectedly showed up at the perfect time to catch us while we were home.  I invited him to have lunch with us and he stayed.  As my parents chatted he reached under the table and held my hand.  That's all.  He gave me his presence and his hand.  I'm not sure if I've ever told him what a precious gift that was.

Sometimes it scares me to trust my memories.  Did it really happen that way?  What would a bystander say about the same memory?  My friend had suffered the loss of his sister when they were young.  He was my savior that day he came for lunch.  To be in the company of someone who knew what that felt like brought me a calmness that I cannot describe.

This is going to be my last post.  The evolution of my grief has been amazing.  Grieving openly was, for a long time, the best way for me.  Now it doesn't fit.  It feels incredibly vulnerable to grieve openly now.  My grief is not nearly as overwhelming as it has been.  The ways in which it appears is more subtle.  I treasure being able to have those moments of grief privately.  This journey is such a deeply personal one.  I am so proud of each moment.  I am also at a point in my life that I am ready to cut the ties that bind me to victimhood.  Grieving openly garners sympathy which no longer serves me.  I am strong, powerful, and empowered.  I am dissociating from widowhood.  I began this process in my heart over the past year and a half however only just a month ago in my surroundings.  I have donated or sold all of TJ's possessions that I had kept.  Having his energetic stamp in my space was not allowing me to fully step into this new life I have created for myself.  I have the most precious of belongings from TJ that fit in a small tupperware storage box and that is all.  I feel light.  I feel free.  Was it difficult?  You bet your ass it was.  And it was so so worth it.  Material possessions do not bind me to TJ.  My heart and soul bind me to TJ.  I feel this was the final step I needed to take to fully embrace the present and future of my life.

I once told another widow that this is the shittiest club you'll ever be in but at least we're in it together.  Now, I recognize that it's not just about being a widow.  It's about being human.  "We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty." -G.K. Chesterton

Thank you, dear reader, for your listening and for your love these past five years.  Thank you for being in this boat with me.  Each of you is a blessing and I promise to send your love, through me, back out into the world. 

With Deep Gratitude,

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Soul Gardening

In a few short days, I open my new business.  I cannot believe this is actually happening.  It's everything I have worked for since the moment TJ died, even if I didn't know it consciously.  All of the pain and sorrow, all of the hard work and tears, all of the self reflection and excavation has brought me right to this place.  And how appropriate that this new chapter is beginning in late fall.

In Chinese medicine, the fall governs the emotion of grief.  The body organs associated with fall are all about receiving breath from heaven and letting go of what no longer serves us back to the earth.  It's the perfect balance.  As I stand at the threshold of this new chapter in life I am compelled to share with you the spirit of a particular acupuncture point.  It is called Heavenly Palace:

"The palace of the spirit and soul, the creator.  A palace where the spirit can be fed, nurtured and revitalized, where all that has defiled it can be cleansed.  One of the most dynamic and spiritually uplifting points on the body.  It can bring a person back into a lifestyle that is more meaningful, show them more of the essence of life which they have been missing.  Very much making it possible to receive and let in.  It is about [the] relationship to the rest of the universe, to what goes on outside themselves.  This point is about trust, communication, receptivity, the place that is safe, one has what is needed.  The emperors palace which brings clarity, peace, and stability to someone in darkness and confusion.  May need to take a person there only once and they will be able to live for a long time on what they find there." - Spirit of the Points compiled by Debbi Manders

This sings straight to my heart.  "A palace where the spirit can be fed, nurtured and revitalized, where all that has defiled it can be cleansed."

I feel that all of this time since TJ's death has been used to feed and tend myself and to discover what I need.  I am allowing this time between worlds to serve as a cleansing of my spirit; to wash over pain and sorrow so that I am ready to welcome this new part of my journey.  And standing at the beginning of my new life brings with it many emotions.  I feel fear over the "what if's", I feel deep self love for my dedication to improving myself and my life, I feel sadness that I am unable to share this with TJ on this earth...  It is every emotion I have ever had all rolled into one.  I am choosing to use the powerful force of this supercell of emotions to transport me over the edge into the unknowing, and to trust what comes after the dive.

I have no idea what life will look like because I have never done this before.  What I do know is that every holy bump I have experienced on my journey thus far has been for a reason.  Everything that has happened in my life has served me well, even when the experiences are painful, scary and exhausting.  And from this past knowledge I accept that everything will happen at exactly the perfect time in exactly the perfect way.  As I have weeded, tended, and planted new possibilities and life into my own soul I am now ready to share those gifts with the world through my practice.  Soul Garden Acupuncture, opening November 3rd 2015

*This post inspired me greatly and gave me comfort with the unknown.  Check her out!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Gifts of Pen and Paper

I keep many journals.  They're scattered in all kinds of places.  When the mood strikes me, I'll grab the closest one and pour it all out onto the page.  The ink is red, black, blue, pink, purple, green.  I use pencils with blunted tips and pens that bleed through the paper onto the other side.  Tonight, I reached for my for-real diary.  The one that has a lock on it.  The one I've been writing in since Thursday, January 4th 1990.
The front of the diary reads "Sometimes I need to be alone, thinking, dreaming on my own.  Trying to see what makes me "me"... following my own special path"

I started writing in it every day when I first got it.  Then it had random entries in it while in high school and college.  It was filling up quickly and I really wanted it to be the major collector of thoughts and feelings.  Those other journals are important, but this one is The One.  So I began writing in it only when big and important things were happening in my life so that I would have enough pages for many many more years.

Tomorrow marks 5 weeks left of my Masters classes so I thought that it would be important to document the approach.  When I was able to pry open the lock (it's been busted for years) a few loose pieces of paper fell out.  I must have tucked them in there a while ago and had forgotten.  I opened one that is dated 6/18/12- a little more than 3 years ago.  What I wrote then and what I feel now are shockingly different.  Here's a bit of what that note said:
"Will I ever be happy again?  I hate my job and I want to cry.  I will never be happy again.  I hate the life I'm stuck with.  My daily existence is severely lacking."

This.  This right here is the meaty good stuff.  This is why I journal.  To see how life changes and to reflect on where I have been and how I've made out.  Holy shit, you guys.  Three years.  It only took three years to have a life I totally LOVE.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I don't even know if I would trade it to have TJ back on Earth with me.  I love him so much and if he were here I might still be miserable and lost.  The only thing going well in my life before he died was him.  Everything else was confusion, self loathing, bad decisions, stress and boredom.  And after he died there was all of that and more.  Pain that ran bone deep.  Fear and nothingness.  Anger and jealousy.  And in three little short years (that honestly feels like a fucking lifetime) everything has changed so much.

For the record:
I am ridiculously happy with my life right now.  I have passion, self-love, confidence, peace, joy, openness, beauty and deep enveloping spirituality.

I am in love with my job as a healer.  I have seen acupuncture and my words change lives.  And those lives affect other lives.  It's the most beautiful butterfly effect.  I am doing World Work.

I mostly cry tears of joy these days.  Even the ones tinged with sadness are triggered by reflections of past love and happiness.

My daily existence is completely exhilarating!  Every single morning I wake up, choose my mood for the day (like peace, calm, love, happiness, gratitude, openness, patience, awakening...)  When I have my mood in place, I put my feet on the floor, raise my hands to the heavens outstretched, throw my head back and say "YES!  Today my mood is Love and I will be in Love all day long, no matter what."  I bring my hands together in prayer and bow to the day ahead.  Every night I thank God and the Angels for another day on this earth.  I count my blessings and pray for my family and friends.  I talk to TJ.  I ask him for help and thank him for being with me always.

I love this life I have.  I cherish it.  I worship my own body; it is my palace.  It's the only body I've got.  I do my best every day.  I am living.  I am loving.  I am deeply and profoundly proud of myself and of all that I have accomplished.  It has been the hardest, most satisfying journey of my life so far.

So I say to you

Write your life down.  Reflect and Rejoice, my friends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Angel

I've been feeling TJ's absence so much more over the past few days.  When things get hard that's when he comes to me.  I talk to him in prayer, as him to be with me, ask him to help.  Send him to watch over different people in my life.  I am so immensely grateful that I have him to do those things for me.  And I wish I could just be with him again.  Last night I fell asleep with my hand stretched out onto his side of the bed.  How incredible would it be if I could just reach over and touch him again?  To be able to ask him what he thinks of all this life that is happening to me, for me, and around me and actually hear his voice in response?

It may sound trivial and I want to know if he likes my hair long.  He always begged me to grow it out, and every time I would try I would get frustrated and cut it.  It's past my shoulders now and the longest since 7th grade.  He never got to see it long.  I wonder if he would like it?

I urge you, dear readers, to pay attention.  To every touch, every word.  Everything.  It's the little every day things that I miss the most; I long for his response to life.  I move through my days imagining and knowing he is with me, watching and guiding.  Sometimes I picture him standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders.  Sometimes I can feel the weight.  I miss him so much.  He was nice, big, and strong.  And he loved me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The last First day

Today was my last first day of classes as an acupuncture student.  Because my school is year round trimesters, this is the final one.  Number 9.  I cannot believe I am here.  I cannot believe that I have made it through the program thus far and that I am in the home stretch.

I feel excitement, fear, and joy all at once.  I could have never imagined this for myself 4 years ago.  I thought my life would be TJ, a house, and sweet sweet babies... maybe a dog, too.  This picture is so different from the one I had my heart set on for years and years.  And my new life... this is a beautiful picture, too.  I am so proud of myself for making this life mine in every wayI have fought hard to be where I am and I am so grateful for all of the people that have been with me along this journey.

When I first started school, I could barely say TJ's name without crying and when I told my story the rivers would flow.  I didn't even feel like myself when I started school.  It is a complete miracle that I was able to allow the deep reflection and feeling the edges of every emotion that would show me the way to this new path of becoming an acupuncturist.  When I started this program I was TJ's widow.  I wasn't Courtney.  It took three years to shed that label I had been assigned and the label I had adopted as my own.  To be Courtney... just Courtney.  It's a feeling like I've never had before; to have TJ imprinted on my soul and know that I am strong enough and important enough to stand solidly in myself is something I had never expected to achieve.  And I have achieved this.  I have been living into this new self for nearly a year and it is an entirely new discovery.  If I'm being honest with you, my beloved readers, I didn't know who I was even when TJ was alive.  Before his death, TJ was about the only good thing going in my life.  I was stuck, stagnant, and dependent on others for what I needed most.  It was easier to stay in a job I hated, be stressed and over worked, eat random fast food meals because there wasn't time or energy to cook.  It was easier to complain about what I didn't have and what others did have and why weren't we fortunate to have money and houses and babies.  What I took pride in, and put all of my energy and love toward, was being TJ's wife.  (Knowing what I know now- that I wouldn't have much time with TJ- I do not regret the choice I made to devote myself to him so fully.  I am grateful that I could give him all of myself, all of my whole heart and soul so he could feel unconditional love while he was here with me)  And I also know that that is no way to live; placing so much importance outside of ones self and then expecting and waiting for others to fill your cup.

I believe that TJ's lasting gift to me was the opportunity to discover myself and a new way of being.  I believe that his soul knew that we would not have our entire lives together into old age and so he used his time with me to nurture me, love me, and encourage me to be better so that when he did have to leave I would know what to do.  Little did I know that I would take that love and encouragement and double it, triple it, quaduple it into who I am now.  I know that I have arrived at this point in my life by my own sheer will and determination to be fully alive and awake to myself and the world around me.

I am beautiful, intelligent, kind, compassionate, skilled, and spilling over with love.  And I'm a damn good acupuncturist.  I have found my path and I am walking it with my head high and my arms outstretched for more.  I know that TJ is proud of me.  And ya know what?  That thought doesn't hold as much weight as I thought it would when I started this journey.  What actually matters the most is that I am proud of myself.   TJ may have planted the seeds, but I tended the soil.  And I am beginning to harvest the rewards of my labor of self-love.  I am ending a huge, transformational chapter of my life and I await the next chapter with excitement and confidence.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I Know How to Take Care of Myself

I want to run away.  I want to go back to Oregon.  And not just Oregon- I want to go to Oregon in 2012.  I want to go where no one knows who I am.  I want to go where I don't owe anyone my presence.  I want to go where the only thing I'm responsible for is the sweet dog and cat.

I'm exhausted.  When I leave the sanctity of my room I feel like I am followed by a qi vampire that is sucking everything I have.  I want to pack up all of my things, pack up my kitties, and go across the country.  I simply don't have the energy for anything, or anyone, else.  How do I make space for myself without offending someone?  It's probably impossible.  And right now I don't seem to care.

I did all of my homework for the next two weeks on Monday and Tuesday so that I can simply show up until after the 3rd.  Me = Zombie

Last night, I laid in bed thinking about how I cannot believe it's been four years.  I have accomplished so much and I'm usually so positive and right now... not so much.  I'm lonely.  Having the connection to a man, a partner, is unlike any connections I have now.  I've got so much to share and no one to share it with.  Not in that way.  I always had so much fun being with TJ.  Some of the most romantic moments I had with him were grocery shopping at Weis Market, or sitting in our living room drinking wine and listening to music.  I miss that.  All of that.  I know I can't have that with him anymore, so I've asked him to help me find someone I can do that with.

As of tomorrow, it's been four years since I've had sex (not that I'm counting...)  I'm usually optimistic about romance yet last night got me thinking "Will it be another four?  Another eight?  Twelve?  Will all of my lady parts simply shrivel up and die?"  I mean, this is really getting ridiculous.  And I'm not one for flings.

I also wonder how these anniversaries and my conversations about relationships will change when I have a partner again.  I'll always love TJ, always miss him... and will these moments be more bearable with someone to hold me through them?  The only way I can participate in conversations about love and relationships is when I reference my relationship with TJ.  It's so weird to talk like that.  I mean, I'm four fucking years removed!  And I know if the person I was talking to didn't know he'd died they sure as hell wouldn't be able to tell by my speaking.  I talk about my experiences with love and feel so disconnected to reality when I do.  I haven't felt any of those things in years.  It's like a programmed recording in my head.  I find myself talking about him like no time has passed and yet it still feels like a script I keep referring to.  It's hard to explain and I'm too tired to try harder.

My sister bought me this wooden block that is painted with a cracked, distressed cream color.  It says "All you need is love... and a cat".  Thank God for them, because they're the only loves I want around right now.  I sat with my Alice and pet her for an hour and a half today.  The entire time I was singing in my head "All you need is love dah dah dah dah daaaah, all you need is love dah dah dah dah daaaah, all you need is love, love.  Love is all you need".  She totally gets me.  The boy is so wonderful at lovin and snugglin and then Alice is there as this intensely grounding force.  How the hell do you thank a cat?  I wish I were telepathic.  I got them just 4 weeks after TJ died.  They were 8 weeks old.  They have saved my life many a time.  They're the only ones I want to be around right now.

This post probably sounds really scattered and that is how my mind is working right now.  So many wonderings, introspection, questions...  I need space and quiet.  I do my best work in this space.  I learn more about myself and what I want in this space.  I need to make time for that, to take time for that.  It's about what I need to make it through.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short"

Christmas Day officially ended 15 minutes ago.  It was so relaxing and joyful; lots of lounging and eating and laughing with my beloved family...

Though today wasn't your average day, I still ended it the same as every other by sitting down to write for my Happiness Project.  It's an amazing book my dear Margaret gave to me for my 34th birthday this year.  It's a journal that has enough blank space to write a few sentences each day of the year, and has enough spaces to fill it for five years.  I began to capture the day in a few sentences, yet still felt like I was forgetting something... so I stopped writing and thought about what it could be.

I am always aware of TJ's absence, though I feel it heavily less and less.  It's almost bittersweet to not have that weight on days like today.  I truly don't miss it, though.  To be able to really enjoy what was going on during each moment with my favorite people today and not feel pulled to a place where I lamented Christmases past was a huge change.  A gift.  Probably the best one.  And I do think of him all the time.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that I talk about him all the time.  Hell, most people overhearing me would probably not even realize he was gone by the way I speak sometimes.  What has changed is how I think of him.  Each day is brand new and each night I fall asleep counting my blessings and thanking God for more time on this earth.  And as time passes quickly and slowly all at the same time, the way that I think of TJ and how we are together in my life has grown intimate in ways I never could have imagined.

I think of him as my angel.  I think of him as my guide.  I think of him as my protector.  I think that, perhaps, this was his purpose all along.  To be all of these things for me in life and in death.  I think he will be involved in every thing I do until the end of time and that it has already been this way since the beginning of time.  I think that he is there every time someone asks me how I am doing and I am able to look them in the eye, smile, and speak from my heart that I truly am doing well and that I am happy.  It is miraculous.  I tell my patients all the time that emotions are not mutually exclusive; that seemingly opposite emotions can coexist in our minds, bodies, and spirits.  Losing TJ taught me that from the start.  And so I can still love him, miss him, mourn him, and be deeply and genuinely happy about my life all at the same time.  I believe that is what I felt was missing tonight when I filled in my few sentences for December 25th 2014... There is no way to write all of those big feelings in so little a space.

And with that I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and blessed New Year