Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 6, 2016: do tragedies get better?

I went to see a tragic play tonight - The Rabbit Hole.  A family is mourning the death of their 4 year old son.  The mother asks "do tragedies get better?"

From my experience I can say as time goes by I occasionally feel that I've put my personal tragedy in the past.  Last weekend I was happily enjoying San Antonio and I felt like I'd reached a milestone in recovery.  Then the memories came whipping right back around and slapped me in the face.

The tragedy has shaped the last 5 1/2 years of my life.  Only 4 1/2 more years and it will be 10 years - the length of time that I was happily married.  It only seems fair that by then I should be done with it.

No more "I'm NOT sorry for what I did" ringing in my ears.  That cruel betrayal on top of the horrific accident still seems unsurmountable to me right now.

I have gotten over the sounds and images from TIRR hospital.  It was a living nightmare being there. Then I'd come home and be aware of my mother's mind fading away.  I have succeeded in mellowing out those images,and it gives me hope.  I thought I would never stop reliving the daily horrors of seeing my husband in his pitiable condition at TIRR.

Now when I think of my past life, I remember lots of the good times we had together.  I remember the feeling of oneness with another person.  But, these nice memories come with the associated painful ones.  I remember the intense dislike and anger from the person I was once closest to.

As I write this I can see how I've progressed.  I truly believe that I will get past this tragedy.  It will always be an important part of the person that I have become.  I have been working hard on my recovery.  One day it will be just that - a part of me; not the definition of me.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12, 2016: head hunting

It's the beginning of the Spring semester at Rice.  This means that I copy lots of books and make pdf's of them for the faculty's classes.  Last week I copied a few dozen chapters for Cymene.  It's a boring part of my job.  Sometimes I take a break at the copier and read some of the pages.

I read a chapter on the customs of a remote tribe in the Philippines.  The anthropologist questioned one of the tribal elders about head hunting.  The man said that when you are grieving, you hunt heads.  Of course, if a family member dies, you hunt someone down and chop off their head.  You toss the head into the jungle.  Poof, your grief has been dealt with!  He couldn't explain it.  It was so obvious to him. (See bottom of this post to read the excerpt from the book, Culture and Truth by Renato Rosaldo.)

When Marcos was making reforms in the Philippines he made it illegal to head hunt.  The tribe was at a loss to deal with the anger they felt when they were grieving.  They joined some missionary church to appease this grief.  Their purpose for joining was not to pray for the future safety  of their loved ones.  They took the "life after death" premise with the promise of heavenly rewards as a means to ease their grief and the anger that accompanies a loss.

Just think - when Jim had his accident,  I could have just hunted down somebody and chopped off his head.  The grief would have been gone.  I can't even imagine killing someone.  Plus, I am unable to fool myself into believing religious propaganda.  I wish I could.  Life would be so much easier.

A few months later, after Jim stabbed me in the back by proposing to a woman while married to me, I would have needed to chop off another head.  It felt to me as if he had died twice.

Instead I grieved.  I went to a psychologist for talk therapy and took antidepressants.

It's becoming more obvious to me why Jim acted as he did.  I guess I'm lucky that he wasn't able to chop off my head after he returned home from his months in the hospital.  He found another way to deal with his grief - find a scapegoat (me) and decide to "fall" in love with someone else.  It worked for him.

After his first post-accident love, Claudia, left him, he fell into love with a series of strippers.  After they left him, he found his old girlfriend through facebook, proposed and quickly married her.  An emotionally immature solution, to be sure, but it seems to be working for him.  His new wife appears to be happy, too.

I wished my grief could have ended so easily.  I don't feel angry at him.  He actually did me a favor.  I have a good life now - I worked at it.  I'm sure if I had to keep lifting him and his heavy wheelchair, my back would be in worse shape.  I have arthritis of the spine as a result of the loss of my left knee at an early age (and from growing older).  Plus, I don't have to go through my retirement funds by supporting him any more.

Life has gone on.  Sometimes I can't believe what happened to me in the past five years.  I used to wish for the good old days before November 2010.

I learned the hard way that marriage is not security against facing old age alone.

Now I am happy being unmarried.  It's a good feeling to be independent and in charge of my own life.  I wanted to go to Germany so I went.  I went on a cruise.  No need to get a husband to agree with me.  I wanted a small white poodle and I went out and got my little dog, Sweetsie.  I decorate my house however I want.  Right now it's with pink poodles and dolls.  My computer and desk are in the family room where I can also see the TV.  I keep sewing tools and some fabric near my recliner-with no one to criticize me.

I have a great companion to share life with.  I met my sweet Bert by contacting him through an online dating site.  We go to dinner together, attend plays, movies, etc.  We enjoy each other's company.
It's a good life.

An excerpt from the book, Culture and Truth by Rosaldo Renato:

  Introduction: Grief and a Head hunter's Rage  (p1-2)

If you ask an older Ilongot man of northern Luzon, Philippines, why he cuts off human heads, his answer is brief , and one on which no anthropologist can readily elaborate: He says that rage, born of grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings. He claims that he needs a place "to carry his anger." The act of severing and tossing away the victim's head enables him, he says, to vent and, he hopes, throw away the anger of his bereavement. Although the an­thropologist' s job is to make other cultures intelligible, more questions fail to reveal any further explanation of this man's pithy statement. To him, grief, rage, and headhunting go together in a self-evident manner. Either you understand or you don't.
from p 4:
The force of the dilemma faced by the Ilongots eluded me at the time. Even when I correctly recorded their statements about grieving and the need to throw away their anger, I simply did not grasp the weight of their words. In  1974, for example, while Michelle Rosaldo and I were living among the Ilongots, a six-month-old baby died, probably of pneu­monia. That afternoon we visited the father and found him terribly stricken. "He was sobbing and staring through glazed and bloodshot eyes at the cotton blanket covering his baby."' The man suffered intensely, for this was the seventh child he had lost.
Just a few years before, three of his chil­dren had died , one after the other, in a  matter of days. At the time, the situation was murky as people present talked both about evangelical Christianity (the  possible  renunciation of taking heads) and their grudges against lowlanders (the contemplation of headhunting forays into the surrounding valleys).
Through subsequent days  and  weeks,  the  man's  grief moved him in a way I had not anticipated. Shortly after the baby's death, the father converted to evangelical  Christian­ity. Altogether too quick on the inference, I immediately con­cluded that the man believed that the new religion could somehow prevent further deaths in his family. When I spoke my mind  to an Ilongot  friend, he snapped at me, saying that "I had missed the point: what the man in fact sought in the new  religion  was not  the denial of our inevitable  deaths but a means of coping with his grief. With the advent of martial law, headhunting was out of the question as a means of vent­ ing his wrath and thereby lessening his grief. Were he to re­main in his Ilongot way of life, the pain of his sorrow would simply be too much to  bear."'  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015: The End and The Beginning

I think the hardest thing about losing someone is the loss of shared memories.  Some very good moments in my life happened with my husband who passed me by.  Remembering those times have been painful for me.  But, I now am taking personal ownership of those memories.

Yes, he was there but much more importantly, I was there!  I went on that trip to Rome. I bought the house I live in;  moved in, decorated and worked on it.  I escaped Hurricane Ike by going to Forth Worth.   I went on the cruise around Hawaii, the trips to Seattle, Victoria Island.  I OWN these memories.

It has been over 5 years now since my husband passed.  That's long enough.  I am now the sole owner of the memories of the life we shared.

I really miss my mother.  I lost her also.  She didn't choose to leave me and our shared moments behind.  Those memories feel different to me.  Remembering our times together make me feel wistful.

I long ago took ownership of any shared memories with my first husband.  It was difficult in the beginning.  We had 2 children together.  How could he abandon this life we had shared?  It took a few years but I took the sole possession of those memories.  I don't feel sad when I think of our years together.

Time really does heal our wounds.  It is a quickly disappearing commodity.  I don't intend to squander the time I have left.

A new year, 2016, is closing in- another time begins.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

September 26, 2015: getting rid of some of the past

My favorite cartoon character has always been Pepe LePew.  I loved how he would hop to chase Penelope the cat.

When I was dating the shithead, previously known as Jim, we would shop a lot together.  I was enjoying the freedom of being single and having the ability to buy whatever I wanted.  There was a Warner Brothers Store in the Galleria.  We'd go there and I'd buy more Catwoman stuff for my collection. The store also carried Pepe LePew.

It seemed to suit Jim and me perfectly.  He was Pepe and I was Penelope.  So, that started my Pepe collection.  We even had a Pepe and Penelope wedding cake topper and champagne flutes.

But then came Jim's accident and all the traumas that went with it.  I lost him a second time when he came home from the hospital and started hating me.  I feel like my heart is so scarred from these events.

I've been working hard at cutting away at the scar tissue.  Today I was able to get rid of some more.  I sold almost my entire Pepe and Penelope collection this morning.  I met a man who collected and sold memorabilia.  We agreed on $60.00 for the whole lot.  I threw in about 15 teapots as well.

Tonight I'll take Bert out to dinner with the money from the sale.

I've been having what I call "waves of sadness" for the past couple days.  After the divorce I packed the Pepe stuff into boxes and stored them in the laundry room.  I guess dragging it all out again brought up memories.

I wish there was a magic pill to erase the tragedies from my mind.  I would have to erase the good memories, too.  Jim and I had a wonderful 10 or so years together.  But those good memories bring up the horrible ones along with them.

I keep on working at my new life.  Eventually, the memories will fade away.  I don't even feel the pain anymore from the dissolution of my first marriage and that lasted for 23 years!

This, too, will pass.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

August 27, 2015

Today there is an article in the newspaper about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  It seemed like it happened a year or two ago to me.  Another part of aging, I guess- time speeds up.

It coincided with the first day that my ex was allowed to leave the county.  That's a long story in itself that I'm not ready to tell yet.

We packed up Mom, Sizzle and Beansie, Nickie and drove to Fort Worth to stay with my cousin, Rosemary.  I have many pleasant memories of our time staying with Rosemary.  It was nice to reconnect with family.

It seems so strange now.  I spoke to Rosemary on the phone a couple of months ago.  I'm still and always will be connected to her.  She's family. 

The person that I was so close to, who seemed a part of me - my ex - is no longer connected to me at all and never will be again.  He was my closest friend.

This proves to me that the saying "blood is thicker than water" is true.  Too bad it took me decades to understand that.  Understanding so many things comes with age.

I wouldn't want to go back in time.  But, I'd love to feel younger physically. 

Life is still scary to me.  I know that anything can happen at any moment and it's totally out of my control.  I think that is why depressed people commit suicide.  They are aware of our human limitations on deciding our own fates. At least they can control when they die.

I'm not depressed these days.  I have a good life now.  I have many wonderful memories of my old life.  If I didn't think so damned much, I wouldn't think about things like aging, time flying, family vs friends. 

I keep busy with my job, spending time with Bert, working on my creative projects.  I'm lucky.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015

I was not going to blog about the meaning of today's date.  But, I just ran into someone that I hadn't seen in a few years.  He asked how I was doing.  He didn't know about my divorce or the events leading to it.  So, now that I'm thinking about it, I might as well write down a few of my thoughts.  (I always enjoy going back to my posts and reading what I was doing in the past.)

Today would have been my 15th wedding anniversary.  If the man I had married was still alive, we would have celebrated big time.  On our 10th I was still recovering from knee replacement surgery so we only went out to dinner.  We were hoping to travel on our 11th in 2011.  But, by then, only a shadow of my husband remained.

He slipped away bit by bit.  I understand.  Who wouldn't change after such a horrible injury?

By our 12th anniversary he had already secretly proposed to another woman, given her a ring and money but remained married to me.  The man I married 15 years ago would not have done such a treacherous thing. 

I will always love the man I married fifteen years ago.  That man is dead.

I never want to see the man I had to divorce in 2013 again.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 7, 2015: the meaning of growing old

Since Mom died I have felt old.  Before there was always someone close to me who was older.  Now I'm the grandma and matron.

As I look back on my life, it seems like it was a long series of losses.  As I grow older, the losses are getting closer and closer together.  I have had friends die or get very sick, children grow up and leave, pets die.  The worse losses were when my husband had his accident and subsequently abandoned me.  Then Mom died.

Today I heard that Mom's youngest brother, Mil died.

Old age has gotten more difficult for people in recent years.  Now we watch our parents dwindle in abilities and die - a foreshadowing of our own future.  Before people did not live so long.  My parents didn't have to watch their parents grow feeble and sickly before they died.  Their parents died at younger ages.

People did not have to watch their friends suffer through chemotherapy or heart bypass surgeries.

I'm not sure that medicine has done us humans a favor by prolonging our lives.  Human beings were not made to live so long.  Our parts fall apart bit by bit through accidents, arthritis, illness,  cancers, etc. No one wants to die young but perhaps it is really the better way to end up.

Maybe I'm just suffering another bout of depression.  I know my "good" years are dwindling quickly.  There are still so many places that I'd like to go and things I'd like to do.  But physically I'm declining and may not be able to live my dreams.  I wonder whether I should just quit working and travel while I still am able.  Or should I just settle down and be content with what I have.

What possible difference will it make if I take a trip to Istanbul or Charleston or Alaska?  I will make memories and those memories will die with me.

I have a pretty good life.  I have a man who loves me, a job that I enjoy, lots of hobbies that I excel at, own a home, have no debts.  Most of the world's people would envy me.

Earlier today I looked at some photos of my former life.  I thought I had become strong enough to face the memories.  I looked at photos taken when Jim, Mom and I lived together.  We were happy and I appreciated it at the time.  Those times were snatched away from me so quickly in November 2010.  I had no time to prepare.  I will never celebrate another birthday with Mom or another anniversary with my husband.  Those days are gone forever.  How can I not mourn?  Does the mourning ever end?