Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My heart is a little more hardened

I think I need to have a little break from blogging.

I recognize my own behaviour pattern ... my heart has become a little more hardened.
It's just possible that just as I found that after 10 months of frequenting the Grief Healing Discussion Boards, that it was taking too much out of me ... in the end ... it felt as though it was reminding me of the pain more (whereas for the first 10 months it soothed me because I needed that reassurance from other human beings that what I felt was normal. I was under the illusion that I'd be able to help others as I grew stronger, but was mistaken) ... I simply wasn't strong enough ... and I didn't have the courage to admit it.
This time I'm strong enough to admit it.
Being female, I reserve the right to change my mind ... but just as J-in-Wales found herself in this place, so do I.
I need to break free for a while.
We'll see ...
and, in the meantime, I'll see you guys on Facebook and email.
Just got to try this, you know? I've got to let that girl in me try and break free ... the strength, the love, the recklessness, the laughter ... and let her come back. The girl he fell in love with. I've got to do this for him ... and for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Almost over

Busy times.


Work was a distraction from the date today.

Kimbers IM'd me to suggest we escape to the pub for lunch, and Faye invited me round for dinner ... I'm sure they didn't know what the date was ... even so, it was perfect timing.

Lunch was excellent company and good food ... all the more enjoyable because there is a balance there (in conversation) ... death no longer drowns out other subjects, banter and laughter. Kimberly was on good form (and in Grazia magazine - she is Front Row Fashion Show's Ambassador) ... and when we got back to the office, she tweeted me:

Thanks for a LOVELY lunch my dearest. Yum Yum. Nxt time can we talk about something other than ur dead husband? Its been a YEAR!

Being graced with the same sick sense of humour as my friend, I howled with laughter at my desk, even though everyone else appeared a bit freaked out - seriously, only the blackest fucked-up humour does it for me these days.

I wonder if she's had 5 million negative tweets back?

To attempt to stem the flow of threatening messages from overloading the servers, I sent her a tweet back:

LOL, yes I know I should be over it ;-) Love you hon, great company as always x

And so I thought I'd destroyed the monster for today. Nearly. But Faye found the chink in my armour ... she is very perceptive ... and has been a wonderful friend to me throughout the year, and knows that I have a thing about crying about it in front of other people now. She equally knows that it's something that I need to do sometimes though. And she lets me. No fuss. Just lets me get it out and reassures me at the same time. Clever that.

The 26th of January is almost over.

I'm going to see it out with a vodka and a jacuzzi ... he wouldn't expect anything less.

Monday, January 25, 2010


It's so hard to believe that a year ago tomorrow was Cliff's funeral.

Right now I was cooking a big Italian dinner for the family, primarily because all my checklists had been ticked off, everything was accomplished and done, and I had to have something to do, otherwise I'd have started screaming and screaming (again).

My stomach is doing backflips remembering.

I want to run away from the remembering thing.

It's a memory that has the ability to make my heart race and make me feel sick ... and panicky. Dry mouth, ears ringing so hard that I can hear my pulse.

I still doubt myself. I still wonder if I did enough for him that day. I still wonder if he approved of the Eulogy. So many people told me that it was beautiful. But I didn't write it for them. I wrote it for him.

The other thing I'm remembering very clearly is just how brilliant his (my) family were and still are. Back then ... without them ... it doesn't bear thinking about. His blood ... now my blood ... and I love them so much for it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

translucent faded water colours

translucent, faded water colours follow me still.
Sometimes they make me smile ...
... but they still have the capacity to bring me to my knees.
I miss the freedom that I had ... being with you. Most people think that you lose your freedom when you get married. Not so. I never had more freedom than when I was with you. Because of you.
I miss the deep throaty laughter that you only let escape with a lover.
It's happening ... even though my belief was that it couldn't. I'm feeling wings though I've never flown. I'm standing on that precipice again, and have no fear to leap ... the difference this time is that I don't want to leap into darkness, rather life.
It's ok to go babe ... I'll be okay because I'll take your love with me, and your lessons. Take my love with you ... and know that I love you still. Always. That cannot be changed. It just is.
The Phoenix has arisen from the ashes.
Oh fuck, it's scary ... and exhilerating, like nothing before.
(but I'm still not ready to take off my rings, nor can I change my profile on Facebook to widowed)

Thankful for things unsaid

There are some things that have to remain unsaid. And will.

There are some secrets that will never pass my lips. Ever.

But I am grateful for them.

They made Cliff the man he was.

And he was mine.


I have just received the best news about a very close friend.

Let's just say that she's had a scare.

But the results are excellent, negative even.

And now my heart rate is returning to normal.

Another thing remaining unsaid, or only partially said ... to protect her privacy.

I cried happy tears when she shared the news because ...

I could barely breathe, let alone concentrate till I knew, because I love her.


And, sometimes secrets make the taste of them all the more delectable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Right to be Wrong

Can't say it any better than this.

The stabilizers have been removed from my bike.

I can't cry

Why can't I cry?

I can feel the pressure building within me, trying to find its own release ... and yet, I just can't cry.

Am I numb again? I really don't know.

The car issue is temporarily resolved and Brian just texted me to check that I'm alright (he was a close friend of Cliff's for over 30 years), but I'm feeling a bit wobbly because he's moving to Spain in a couple of weeks. Another security blanket going away. WTF are almost all of his friends leaving the country? It's making me feel as though I'm at high altitude and the air is too thin to breathe.

I've really got to get my shit together.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stuff I just don't understand

I've got that "useless" feeling rising up from the pit of my stomach tonight. Like bile, only it's not something you can see, it's an emotion.

It's always the little things ...

tonight, driving home (yes, too fast as usual) the car seemed to almost stall (but not) and a weird light flashed up on my dashboard. The light depicted something that looked like a half full stomach. WTF is THAT? I am CLUELESS as to what it means, so about to go and sit in the car with the manual (which may as well be written in Japanese) to try and figure it out.

I hate this useless feeling.

Just in case, I have arranged to borrow my friend's husband to take a look at it (and install the handsfree for iphone kit), and actually I think maybe I'll just go to the dealership on Saturday and ask them to check it out.

The car is only a year old, so it should be fine ... but my intuition is telling me check it.

It's not that I'm lazy, but the interest to learn about cars is just not there. It doesn't do it for me.
And it makes me wonder if I thanked him enough, for every little thing that he did for me, without even being asked.
I think I did ... but right now I'm not entirely sure any more.
Brian King, please put down the fucking phone, so I can ask you if I should drive it to work tomorrow. If you don't put down the phone, I'm going to cry. And hard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's snowing

It's snowing again.

Big fat flakes.

And it's settling.

oh crap.

I wish I wasn't such a big baby at times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The time is now

This morning, the first thought on my mind, for the first time in 16 years, was not of Cliff.

Is that good?

Should I feel bad?

Wish I could fast-forward my life a bit.

Feeling impatient with myself … “wanna run baby, run, like a stream down a mountain-side. With the wind at my back, you know I wouldn’t even bat an eye” … but I don’t want to run to him anymore, because I really have accepted that he’s dead. Finally. No more pretending. My mind has finally processed the fact, whilst retaining its sanity. Even if I feel a little crazy right now. It’s kind of a good crazy, if there is such a thing.

What a difference this state of mind is to that I was in only 3 weeks ago. I thought … really doubted my sanity three weeks ago.


Of course I still miss him. I think I always will.

"It is better to have lived one day as a tiger than a thousand years as a sheep." - Tibetan saying

If there is one person I know who lived as a tiger, it is him.

I’ll be betraying him if I don’t live. Really live. Laugh.

There is nothing to fear out there.

Apart from driving on ice, and spiders.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just realized

I woke up this morning and realized that I'm not married anymore.

That is frightening and liberating at the same time.

Last night I spent some time with a friend of Cliff's (and mine) and I told him that something inside me has broken and won't ever be fixed. He told me that he thought it was probably impossible to fix me completely back to the way I was ... but that he could see the happiness in me again ... that it was ok to move on ... that Cliff would want me to live again.

I feel alive again.

He knows, because he's gone further away from me, I can feel him leaving.

Part of me wants to scream, "come back, I'm not ready."

and part of me wants to whisper, "I'll be ok, it's alright for you to go."

So I've said both. I think he's smiling for me.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My boss left ... good reunion ... freaks on trains

the window in the main hallway - RAF Club - Piccadilly

My lovely boss left today. I told her I was not going to cry and she said she wouldn't either ... and we actually managed not to. Another miracle. In retrospect, this is probably only due to the fact that I'll be speaking to her on Monday and, each time we have a meeting in Manchester, we are going to meet up. She left me with a card that made me smile, wherein she'd inscribed, "I have seen you at your very best and at your worst. I have loved working with you ... don't ever lose the part of you that looks at the world in such a child-like way ... that is the very quality that makes you so much fun to be around and gets you through the hurdles, some of which you have already overcome." When she hugged me, she told me how proud she was of how far I've come from the place I was in a year ago. Shit, I will miss her immensely.

Thankfully there was a mission to focus on ... the school reunion Cocktail Party in London ... which involved breaking every speed limit home (in the fog) ... record-breaking time getting ready ... and catching the train to Victoria to meet Sara. We found each other easily, helped by the fact that we were both wearing red coats, and quickly jumped in a cab to Piccadilly to join other Old Dovorians at the RAF Club.

It transpired that we were the only girls there from our era really (that I remember), and we were beginning to wonder if anyone else we knew was there, when we spotted Sunil, James G and James R, Pietro C, Otto O, as well as two old teachers - Mr Matthews and Mrs Stefan. The bubbles were not cold enough for me and I started fantasizing about a vodka, coke and ice, which Sunil managed to procure.

There were some doddery old boys there too, one of whom asked me if I was still AT the school, and when I laughed he appeared a little indignant and I realized he wasn't flattering me, he was serious. His eyesight is obviously failing (and I spotted his hearing aid). Sara asked him if he'd have liked having girls at the school during his years there and he then took great pleasure in telling us that during his time there "just after the war, there was a lot of homosexuality going on" and then went on to explain his theory that this was due to desperation. Not sure if he was sharing this information for shock value or if he was gay, or if he was implying that he wasn't ...

There were some boys from barely before or after our era who were a little too charming, bordering on lecherous frankly, and they weren't nearly as charismatic as they thought they were. And no, I don't remember their names.

One man introduced himself to me as Stephen and I instantly felt at ease with him. He reminded me of one of Cliff's brothers actually ... we chatted, and he gave me his business card which I glanced at ... and it turned out he is the current Headmaster. And the weirdest thing happened, he asked me to join the school's Marketing Team, and I actually turned back into a teenager for a moment, and simply stood there mute, nodding like an idiot, unable to refuse BECAUSE HE IS THE HEADMASTER. WTF. Secretly I am honoured and just hope I can find the time to contribute.

After that I met a lovely 6th form girl, and found that (apart from Sara obviously, and the men mentioned already, as well as the Headmaster) I seemed to feel happiest talking with her ... hmmmm, says a lot about how much I've grown up. She really was lovely, a completely open book, very talkative and sweet-natured. She even confided in me about stuff going on! Let me tell you that they are tame there these days. Even the current Head referred to our time there as "the liberal years". She was fun though, and a breath of fresh air. I noticed that we naturally broke away from the group and almost believed I was still back there ... in fact we were talking so intently that no one tried to interrupt us. AT ALL. But there was one point when I realized that I wasn't. When she mentioned that one of the boys (who left the school last year) was in Afghanistan. She was telling me that she and another girl had sent a parcel of stuff and letters to him yesterday, and that he was fine, he'd be alright, and it was what he wanted to do. "He's absolutely fine, " she said with complete confidence. And she 100% believed it. I just couldn't tell her ... why should I fuck her head up ... but I zoned out ... all I could hear in my head was Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, and I suddenly wanted to run right out of there. I could feel the panic rising up from deep within me ... eventually fighting with myself to zone back in on her when she was telling me about her impending driving test. Finally, I noticed the Head and all the students were waiting for us to shut up so that they could tell her that it was time for them to leave.

Other than that, everytime I felt a bit freaked or hemmed in, I made eye contact with one of the boys and was duly rescued. It's always a pleasure to see them, it really is, and I laughed (genuinely) lots.

Sara started to feel a bit mashed I think (one clue was when she asked one of my classmates if he had spoken "as poshly as that at school")... and I realized that I did not want to catch the last train home alone ... along with a thousand drunk people, so fetched our coats, and Sara successfully flagged down a cab by standing in the middle of the road. She's a good person, really thoughtful, intelligent and has this ability to enable me to tell her how I'm really feeling without tears - and shitfaced or not - insisted on ensuring I got on the train safely. Two red coats hugging, and a promise to text each other when we got home safely.

We both got home around the same time. I'm not sure how her journey went, but would imagine it was similar to mine ... surrounded by FREAKS. Aarghhhhhh. I could feel myself tensing up, my body language very apparent to anyone sober enough to analyze it, and when I got in my car, I immediately locked myself in it, not beginning to relax till the front door was shut. I then checked the entire house for imaginary monsters before pouring a vodka, coke and ice.

I know it's late. I know I've got stuff to do tomorrow, but I can't sleep yet. I hate freaks looking at me in the inimitable way that they do. Euuuuuuuuuuuuuw. The tension is starting to leave me, but only a fraction. One more vodka and I'll try to sleep. NOT YET.

I'm proud of myself for doing it. It's the first time I've managed that journey ... one that I took many times knowing that Cliff would be waiting for me, and one that I took many times with him. Tick. Another roadblock overcome. But even better, I only told two people that I'd been widowed ... and that was only due to the fact that they asked me if I was married. It just didn't seem necessary to share the fact. Now that is progress.

Thanks for holding my hand, Sara x

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life is good

Shit. Did I really write that?

Well today it is. I feel good.

I've got through a year and a week. I'm not stupid. I know that the second year is as hard as the first.

But I've got through a year and a week. That fact has proved to me that I can do another year and a week. I'll just enjoy the happiness and strength while it's here. No more, no less. I don't expect anything else.

I've had enough of getting on my own nerves. I'm done with being weak all the time. I want some of "me" back - the strength, the laughter and a bit of recklessness. Where has the girl gone that is in my photos? Where is she? I need a bit of her back.

I can feel her coming alive again though. Her heart has started beating again, instead of faintly pulsating.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A bad start ... a good ending

Neil and Michelle

This morning I set off for work, and my stupid car slid and slipped around on the ice. Just as I almost reached the motorway, it got stuck in snow. Despite throwing a mo-fo tantrum, then trying to push it, causing me to fall over in the snow ... it still wouldn't budge. Despite learning that crying didn't help last time this happened, I cried this time too. In the end, one of Cliff's friends rescued me and drove the car home because I was in such a mess.

I get on my own nerves these days. I really do.

My boss and I caught up by phone and we laughed at the stupidity of my reaction. It's good to laugh at yourself (and others) sometimes. Gatwick Airport is shut today, so it's doubtful that she'll be able to come down before she leaves the company. I hope she can because I have prepared myself to say goodbye to her, but not by phone. I have to plan everything and almost visualize myself doing stuff, in order for me to cope. This is a fairly recent thing. For example I have visualized myself lighting the fuses on the fireworks that will "scatter" Cliff's ashes, and I appear to be able to do it, which means that I will feel more confident about actually doing it ... ergo ... I will do it. Simple yet effective.

I caught up with Geoff as usual, and today he had a surprise for me. The fact is that I am thankful for our daily chats because they give me a little balance in my life. We chat and laugh, but I also use the time to sense-check things with him because I can trust him implicitly. Thanks to Martin Thomas, he had found Neil (another boarding school friend) who had asked him for my contact information. Anyway, what started out as a shitty day, ended up with me feeling positive, pretty happy and privileged, not to mention grateful to have these friends. It turns out that the friendship that I had with Neil all those years ago is still there and still as strong as ever. I am so lucky to have these people in my life again, when I most need them, when I want them, and I still love them. And, even better, they still love me. (That's not arrogance, just a statement of fact, and something I don't take for granted.)

Once again, I thanked my late father for sending me to the school that he did. Once again, I thanked Cliff for giving me such a strong foundation. Once again I want to say, "have I told you lately how much I love those guys?"

I do. I'm lucky.

And I'm thankful for having a good, strong day ... in the end.

If the snow would just go now, PLEASE, perhaps the strength will last even longer. Even if it only lasts till Friday, because I'm meeting Sara for a School Reunion Cocktail Party, so I know I'll be good for that.

I'll worry about next week when it arrives.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are you better now?

are you better now?

- reminiscent of how my Mom used to speak to me when I was a small child, having finished throwing a tantrum.

If one more person asks me if I'm better, and it's easier because I've grieved for a full year ... I am going to fucking SCREAM.

Yes, I am going to scream, and scream and scream and scream, until I am sick, and I can, and I will.

Speak to me like a xxxx and I'll behave like one. Just watch.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back at work

I managed to get my car off the driveway and returned to work properly today.

It was so good to be back in the office, catching up with friends and colleagues. It was also good to eat lunch there, because due to my lack of motivation to cook for myself (it makes me too sad to cook without Cliff here), eating at work ensures that I eat a balanced diet.

Quite a few people noticed that I'd lost weight over the holidays, but I'm not surprised I did ... I'm amazed I survived the holidays and the first anniversary, on a mental level at least. It's such a relief that they are all over ... it was very hard, but as one of my team said to me today, I will "never have to do the first Christmas, New Year and Death-iversary again".

Yes, it's a relief to be back at work, and it's a relief to have those "firsts" under my belt.

It's evidence that I can do this. As hard as it may be, I have proved that it can be done.

That said, when I parked on the driveway this evening, it did feel as though I should be rewarded for having jumped over all those hurdles. Almost as if I would be getting him back because I had accomplished getting through the first year. How ludicrous is that?

I sat in my car crying, speaking to Cliff, asking him why he couldn't come back ... and I realized, there is no tangible reward coming. The reward is finding my new balance, my new life, my new equilibrium.

Yes, I am expected to be happy about that.


Now that's ludicrous.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Listen with Mother

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.


Before Cliff and I went to Hong Kong for a week’s break, my boss at the time asked if I would pick up a fake Rolex for his wife.

We were having a great time in Hong Kong, and stayed in a wonderful hotel in Kowloon which had a roof-top swimming pool, made entirely of glass, which meant that I would only swim in circles, in the middle of it, otherwise I felt as though I would fall off the top of the skyscraper right down into Hong Kong Harbour.

Everywhere you went, the locals would try and get your attention, “You want suit made? You want Rolex?”

We quickly learned to ignore them, because they were working on commission to get you to buy from local merchants, and I became accustomed to walking down the main drag, with my hand out, “no, thank you,” whilst avoiding eye contact. Cliff never managed to perfect the art and I would have to wait often, whilst he disentangled himself from their pleas. The Rolexes were shabby reproductions and in the vein of, “don’t buy something for someone else that you wouldn’t be happy to receive yourself” I didn’t buy one on behalf of my boss.

We did find a good tailor and he made us a suit each. I still have mine and Cliff was cremated wearing his.

Which left the Rolex. As I said, everything we saw was a poor imitation and looked tacky.

So, we’re meandering around the streets, window-shopping, enjoying the sights and enjoying each other. And I have a brainwave. I remember my nephew (who lived in HK for a while) telling me that he bought his watch from some Triads.

So I start keeping my eyes peeled for Triads. The only problem is I don’t remember to tell Cliff my plan before I find some.

There are 3 of them standing on a street corner. I’m pretty sure they are Triads because they have the tattoos, the spiky peroxide hair, the sleeveless T-shirts.

And in my excitement that I have the solution to procuring a good quality counterfeit Rolex, again, I forget to inform Cliff of my intentions, and rush over to them.

“Excuse me, are you Triads?”


“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Boo.” (shake all their hands)

They are all looking bemused and are now sizing up Cliff (who resembled a Bolivian drug baron at the best of times) who is looking faintly disturbed at my making friends with these men.

I ignore all the body language, and proceed, “Would you happen to know where I might be able to find a decent quality Rolex. Everything I’ve seen so far is so tacky looking.”

The Triads smile at each other and the Leader of the group says, “Sure, I can help you. Follow us.”

And we do. Cliff suddenly has a mood on, and is marching in front of me.

We follow them through winding, narrow alley-ways, for what seemed like a long walk. Then we climb up exterior steel staircases and into a building, where, we find ourselves sitting in a fake Travel Agents. The Triad explains that it is necessary to have a “front” for his business.

Cliff looks at me and says, “if we get out of this alive, I am going to fucking kill you, Boo.” I retort, “don’t speak to me like that” and then begin conversing with the Triad who appears to be the one in charge.

He clicks his fingers and one of the others runs off, returning with a “catalogue” of photos of watches. I flick through them at leisure, finally deciding on a Ladies Rolex – an Oyster. I tell the man, and then change my mind, “I quite like that one, please may I have two, as I’d like one too.”

Cliff interjects, “good idea, Boo … get two of the same, so that Customs notice when we fly home” and I wish he’d get over his sudden mood-change.

The man clicks his fingers again, and one Triad takes away the catalogue, whilst another fetches the watches.

They are good watches, the hand even sweeps, instead of ticking.

“You like handbags?”

“Ooooh, I LOVE handbags.”

He clicks his fingers again, and another man starts to fetch the handbag catalogue (I assume), but Cliff announces, “we’re going,” and this time, I realize he is very serious and know better than to argue.

I pay the Triad, and he looks at Cliff, speaking to him for the very first time, “your wife, she is very funny, I like her.” I see a look of understanding pass between them, and feel a little uncomfortable, like they are laughing AT me a bit, but I can tell it's not meant nastily.

“Yes, mate,” Cliff tells him, “She’s fucking hilarious, she’s a fucking nightmare at times.”

And they walk us back to the very place where I found them.

We decide to find somewhere to have a drink and I spot a bar, but Cliff is trying to convince me to walk a little further. It’s humid and hot, and we’re so thirsty, so I start whining, “please, please, can’t we go in here” and he concedes. I rush off to the toilet while he orders the drinks. And I can hear his voice from the toilet, saying, “get OFF me. I’m married. My wife’s in the toilet.” And rush back to him.

Yes, it’s a bar, but it’s also the brothel. No matter. I make friends with the girls and they sit with me, giggling, telling me all the best places to shop.

Cliff sits at the bar and turns round to see me sitting with all these girls, and starts smiling at me. Then laughing.

I go up to him and hug him. He tells me, “don’t EVER do that again. They are serious people. They could have tried something, and then …”

I suddenly realize the situation I have put us in and am so damn sorry, but he still keeps laughing at me, telling me how much he loves me.

We walked down the road (where I found the Triads) every day for the rest of our holiday. And every day the Triads would wave at me, “hello Boo” and I’d wave and say hi back to them, but they never spoke to Cliff.

Not only that, all the people harassing the tourists stopped bothering us.

They really were serious people.

Takeaway Food

"Please can I order a naan bread, chicken korma, and boiled rice?"

"Yes, madam."

"Oh, and do you have any cans of coke?"

"No, we don't have any drinks."

"OK ... can you deliver to 165 xxxxxxxx Lane?"

"No, madam, the cost of the meal is too low."

"Oh, I live alone now, ok, I'll leave it thanks."



and so I trundled up to the little shop, whispering to Cliff, "I miss you so much babe. Are you here now, walking next to me?"

And today, I talked to the cashier because he is quite a jolly chap from Sri Lanka and I don't want him to think I'm rude.

Provided it doesn't snow tonight, the roads look driveable.

And after eating a chili con carne with naan bread, and sipping a very nice vodka and coke, life feels a little better.

I have a little smile on my face, remembering a funny memory ... and if you're sitting out there in the dark, whistling or not, check in later to read it, because I can almost guarantee it will put a smile on your face too.

Once I've written down the story, I'm going to head for a hot jacuzzi and bed, ready to shovel my way off my driveway and head to work tomorrow. Can't wait.

Life goes on

Life goes on.

Yes it does.

For others.

How the fuck do I do this ... when I feel like this?

and this?

I know I have to.
I know.
But actually doing it is so hard.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stuck in the snow

Having managed the drive back from the coast on January 7th, I returned to work yesterday, which was good, even though I had to work from home, due to the fact that my road was impassable.

I worked my way through 500 emails and one telecon. There were quite a few emails from friends and colleagues promising to sponsor me for the walk, which meant the world to me. I was also so touched at some of the emails that my widow-friends had sent me over the holidays ... the empathy and love within those mails was almost palpable.

And you can call me sad, but I so missed being able to be at the office, amongst friends and colleagues there. I like the buzz. I like the companionship. Because this is now missing at home.

At around 16h30 when I logged off from my Company's network, I felt so sad that it was Friday evening, that he isn't here, that I am marooned home alone, and that life basically will never be the same again. I will never feel the same again.

The numbness has lifted, and how I wish it hadn't. Pain has taken its place.

Today, I haven't bothered to wash even. What's the point? I slept on the couch last night because ... actually I don't know why, I just did.

I just can't motivate myself to do housework or sort through paperwork either ... when Cliff was here, I had a purpose ... I did these things for him even if I found them boring or tiresome. Some days I find I can still do stuff for Cliff, today is not one of them.

I have taken the dogs out in the snow though, and found that helped lift my mood. Being out in the air, looking at how pretty the snow is, laughing at how Barney disappears because it is so deep. Then I set off alone, thinking how lovely it would be to just walk, hand in hand with Cliff, to the little shop. The simple things in life are free. Last night I thought about how much I'd love to go food shopping with him, that I wouldn't be able to focus on the food because I'd be marvelling at him. Just the wonderfulness of him.

I miss you so much.

And I realized why old people talk to checkout girls for so long. It's because they haven't spoken to anyone else all day. So I made a point of not talking to the checkout person at our store because I didn't want to assign myself to that niche in society. WTF. My brain works very peculiarly these days. The thoughts I have, the things I do and say.

I now know just how tenuous, just how fragile and precariously thin that line is ... the line between sanity and insanity.

Last night I typed up a list of the clothes I want to send to womanNshadows so that she can make Cliff's quilt, along with some ideas for what she can embroider on it. And then I went to his wardrobe, opened the doors, just stood there for the longest time, looking at his shirts hanging there. And I was reminded of how big he was ... those shirts are big enough for me to wear as dresses. I miss my bear of a man. I miss him. I smelled some of the things that are preserved for moments when I am at my weakest and held them and just sobbed. I'm crying now, just remembering doing it.

I miss you baba. It hurts so much.

Hopefully it will stop snowing. I'll be able to get back to work properly.

I'd really like to drive down to the coast tomorrow to see Shaun, Vicki, Gary and Gaynor. I need to see them ... they cheer me up and give me a taste of Cliff again somehow. But I think the snow is going to stop me.

I do have something to look forward to though. On Friday, Sara and I are going to the Old Dovorian Cocktail Party at the RAF Club in Piccadilly (London). What to wear? Oooh, maybe I need a new pair of shoes, a new outfit? Dog-hotel to be booked. It will be good fun. Have I mentioned before how much I love my boarding-school friends?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Walk ... the first anniversary ... January 6th 2010

I shovelled the snoo-snoo off my drive and set off for the coast ... and our walk. My friend Vicki had rearranged her work schedule so that she could walk with me, and I am so glad she did. We wrapped up warm and step by step, we made it. WE DID IT! It was good to be back on his turf, the place that is so evocative, so full of memories that I can practically see him. Walking along the coast is so cleansing - it's good for the soul, it's humbling and even though the waves were crashing onto the promenade, causing us to shriek and flee at one point, the sea always provides one with a sense of peace. It allows you to think and reflect on what is truly important in life ... without the modern noises - the blipping of Blackberries, microwaves and other interruptions - invading your surroundings.

The sea or ocean always brings Cliff back to me, due to all the shared memories we have, not to mention the footprints, invisible now, that he once left on local beaches and told me about.

Today, the sea also reminds me that Viking burials once took place there ... and in my mind, that is how I said goodbye to Cliff on January 26th last year, at his funeral.

And by coincidence, on the way back, I noticed the ramblers' sign-post which indicated that we had, in fact, walked the "Viking Trail" and was comforted by the fact that by intuition, we had chosen the most appropriate walk that we could have to commemorate Cliff's first death-iversary.
Curiously, I have been fairly numb over the past few days. I am shocked, considering the significance of the date, the date that the love of my life lost his life ... somehow finding strength and comfort from encouraging messages left for me on Facebook, by text, through other widow/er's, from friends and family ... by lighting the candles, by reflecting, by talking to him (and yes, with him), and by focusing on the simple fact that by walking those miles, Vicki and I have honoured him ... the essence of him ... ever thoughtful and considerate of those who were in (sometimes dire) need of help.

It humbled me, it put my pain, my worries and fears of the unknown and unplanned, not to mention unwanted future that I have ahead of me, firmly into perspective within this universe. I know that my pain and loss is no less than any other widow/er ... however, I cannot imagine having to worry about where my next meal is coming from - I may choose not to bother to eat, however it is a very different thing, to have a choice. I have warmth and shelter, a means of supporting myself, a wonderful, loving and supportive safety net of family and friends.

The widows I have fund-raised for are less fortunate than I, by a long shot. Sometimes outcast, forced to beg for food, sleeping rough, and unfortunately, facing horrific adversities that are the stuff of nightmares. Yes, even worse than my nightmares that are emotionally crippling enough.

So, as it turned out, I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground - the walk itself grounded me ... I let the sea wind blow away the cobwebs in my mind, I silently thanked Cliff for all that he was, all that he did, all that he taught me ... and above all, I felt this overwhelming gratitude that he chose me to spend his last 15 years with.
Unfortunately, having eaten a hot meal, having congratulated ourselves on completing the walk, we discovered that in the short space of an hour ... a snowstorm had crippled the entire region, and on attempting to leave Vicki's for home ... my car would not even climb the pathetically low gradient hill out of her street.
Perhaps it is a good thing ... for us widow/ers ... to have some things to worry about ... being stranded here, driving back through the freezing conditions (and when), my dogs (who I thankfully left with a big bowl of kibble, water and have the warmth from central heating), but who I am feeling almost panic-stricken at being separated from. As well as - how the hell am I going to get into work tomorrow, if I can't even get home today? To make communicating even harder, I have no mobile signal at all to let people know where I am, or what's going on - an added worry. All distractions even if they are worrisome, are welcomed ... what a paradox.
Ah ... out of my control, a reality check and reminder that nothing was in my control a year and one day ago either ... all I can do is keep trying, and whereas I know I will fall over, I can and will pick myself up, time and time again, ad nauseum until ... what?
In the meantime, I'll look forward to reporting back how much we've raised for those destitute widows in Africa and India, as well as less fortunate ones in the Western World.

It's past three

At three a.m. precisely, I lit a candle for the light that Cliff is in my life. I've sat still watching the flame flicker - its warm glow.

I think I am deadened by tiredness, for I feel strangely numb. Or do I feel peaceful? I really don't know.

Now, I can head for bed ...

... and worry about how to get down to the coast through the snow when I awake. NOT YET.

Thank you everyone for your wishes here and by text and on Facebook. Thanks also for not phoning - my issue with phones at the hardest times has been accepted, and I am so grateful for that.

This is where my head is right now, best described in the following quotations and poem.

The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.
- Thornton Wilder

You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience.
—Wayne W. Dyer

The truest words of all: I will not forget you. You are in my waking thoughts, my sweetest memories, my dearest dreams. I will not forget you. You have touched my soul, opened my eyes, changed my very experience of the universe. I will not forget you. I see you in the flowers, the sunset, the sweep of the horizon and all things that stretch to infinity. I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand. I carry you with me forever.
— Ellen Sue Stern

It's really true, Baba, isn't it? You're not coming back. Your love remains still, always, my beautiful husband <3

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The First Anniversary

The First Anniversary

As you approach the first anniversary of losing the amazing man that shared your life, your love, your joys, and your sorrows; I have a vision I would like to share with you. I am imagining you wearing a heavily laden backpack. This pack is filled with the searing pain of separation, the desperate fear of the unknown, the intense longing for the touch of someone who loves you, the emerging hope you have for the future, and a new love for today. You are surrounded by the beauty of the Arizona countryside, heading up the North side of the Grand Canyon. The landscape is breathtaking, sometimes the beauty of your surroundings causes tears to run down your cheeks—other times it makes you draw in your breath in wonder.

As you begin to ascend the canyon, you are feeling your legs—aware of the strain the climb creates. Your muscles feel weak at first, but as you continue ascending you realize there is strength in your legs you didn't know you had. Each step forward requires effort. The grade of the climb changes often, once in a while the steep angle makes you lose your footing and fall back. Yet, even with the backward steps you move forward, pressed on by the thought that you are capable.

Following the winding path up the trail, you realize that the journey to the bottom of the canyon was fraught with pain and fear. There were days you felt you were free-falling and other days when you sat on a ledge unable to move either forward or back. No markers indicated where the bottom of the canyon was, so the descent felt as if it would last forever. Then, without warning, you found yourself standing on the banks of the majestic Colorado River. You are out of breath and a bit dizzy, but miraculously still in one piece. Trying to get your bearings you are shocked to discover that the descent is over. Calm surrounds you as you become aware that you have survived. You no longer need to wonder if you can live through the treacherous freefall of loss, suddenly you know that your goal is to climb out of the gorge you dropped into—one step at a time.

With each passing moment the strength in your muscles gives you confidence. The weight of your pack seems to change as you climb. Perhaps you have grown accustomed to the added load, but whatever the reason, you feel able to bear the weight. Climbing all the way up the opposite side of the Grand Canyon suddenly seems possible. Though you have a distance to go and your destination is not in plain view, you know it is there—not by sight, but by instinct. You can envision the outer edge of the canyon, and you have no fear of disappointment. Your journey will be whatever it is meant to be, and you are at peace. You have learned the lesson of the descent--you only have today. Today is what you live for, tomorrow is what you hope for, and yesterday is where your heart learned it's most poignant lessons.

Onward friend.

This was written by Michele Neff Hernandez for Michelle Dippel when Michelle was approaching the first anniversary of her husband's death. Thanks to Michele for forwarding this piece to me recently - it is so inspiring and comforting.

This time last year

This time last year ...

I still had 17 minutes left of our life together, as I knew it.

and today, I would exchange the rest of my life, just to have 5 minutes with him.

I even looked to see if the same documentary that we had been watching (about pirates) was showing. Of course it wasn't. A whole year has passed, even though I didn't participate in it, other than as a shell of my former self. Time waits for no one - never a truer word was spoken.

12 minutes ...

We were sitting on that couch, touching each other, happy, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen. Smiling, talking, laughing ... so at ease in each others company. I loved just looking at you sometimes, you know? Just looking.

10 minutes ...

9 minutes ...

I look out the window, and just as this time last year, there is a smattering of snoo-snoo left on the ground, but my old car and his white van have been replaced by a new car. Further evidence that he is gone.

We were so happy together.

When I woke up today, my first thought was a memory ... of watching "Forever Young" ... and at the end of the film ... Julia Roberts is convincing her boyfriend that he has to go to hospital, that it will be ok, that hers will be the last face he sees ... and I remember Cliff turning to face me, that wry smile on his face, knowing that I would be boo-ing and saying, "oh darling, I knew it ... I knew that would set you off ... would you hold my hand if I was dying?" And me mute ... but nodding and mumbling through my tears that I would. We watched that movie a week before he died.

3 minutes ...

I look at the couch again, and I can see those translucent faded water colours of him (and me for the first time) ... I remember every last word and smile and touch.

2 minutes ...

He is going upstairs now to put on the heating, and I am heading to the kitchen to wash up the breakfast stuff ...

1 minute of blissful oblivion left ...

back to the present, I am lighting a candle for him.

The time is now.

I am focusing on the candle.

It is far preferable to playing the loop, over and over again, of what happened over the course of the next 12 hours, bringing life and this world to an end. At least the way I knew it.

I thought I'd be hysterical - yet find myself calm and detached.

Just before I started to write this post, I read the comments left for me on my last post - I wonder if those comments have given me some extra strength to get through these next 12 hours, along with the text received from Jenny, all read at the same time.

My beautiful husband, I so want to tell you about everything I have learned and realized this past year, but somehow I think you already know. I desperately want to tell you how very special you are and thank you for all that you gently taught me, for all that you did, how you tried for us, how hard you worked for us - how limitless my love for you is - yet, I feel that you are aware, that you knew before this all happened even.

I feel peaceful, I trust that it's ok, that you and I both know our love will sustain us till we are allowed to be together again. Until that time, I will try, fail, and try again, to live without you physically here.

Another candle will be lit at 03h00, for it was at that time that I watched you take your last breath, stunned, unbelieving. Even as you were dying, I felt strength from you, I mean, it gave me strength ... knowing that you were alive. It gave me purpose, being there for you ... I would no sooner betray you or let you down, especially at the only time you ever really needed me to be strong for us, than I would hurt a puppy. United we were, yet when we were separated physically, when I knew you'd gone, my strength was sapped right down to its lowest reserves, ever. Numbness replaced strength and truthfully, it has been my invisible friend throughout the past 12 months.

The time is now. It is no longer this time last year.

Tomorrow Vicki and I will walk along the beautiful coast, and I will see translucent faded water colours of you there too, but I will keep walking next to my friend, proud of being your wife, amazed that you chose me. We will walk in honour of you and everything you stood for. We will cry and laugh and keep walking ... because you taught me to never ever give up, and I shan't.

One step at a time.

I will take one step at a time, secure in the knowledge that you and I have unconditional and limitless, eternal love.

Our love is stronger than pain or death.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

a little more Buzz, a teeny insy less Boo

This is me. This is Boo. When we first watched "Monsters Inc", Cliff laughed his head off because he thought that "Boo" in the movie was very similar to me. Especially when the big monster roared at her (to scare her), and she giggled, "Kittie" raising her arms to be hugged by him. Cliff and many of his closest friends used to laugh at my ability to meet some pretty scarey individuals and bring out the soft side of them, retorting to his friends, "he's lovely."

"To you, maybe ..." they would laugh.

I shan't lose the Boo in me. That is the Boo who Cliff fell in love with. The Boo who sees the good in people, and who sees the softness ... however ... I had the luxury of being loved and protected by a man who most would not choose to cross or anger intentionally.

My Cliffy is not here in a physical sense anymore. I still seek reassurance from him, but I am beginning to understand that I always had it in me - he simply gave me the confidence - he made me believe that I could do what I have accomplished so far. It's hard to continue without his counsel, without the safety net ... but my husband overcame adversity after adversity during his life, and he never gave up. Not once. Not only that, he never let any experience embitter him, or change him. This is my ambition ... to do the same.

I need to retain the optimism by seeing the good in people, keep the trust (but be more selective), and take a leaf out of Buzz Lightyear's attitude.

He believed he could fly. And so, in the end, he did. Right now, I am looking at the world as a mere observer, not fully participating. I need to take that leap ... and rejoin the land of the living (albeit taking Cliff along for the ride).

to infinity and beyond, onwards and upwards

I can identify with his catchphrase, especially knowing that infinity and beyond is waiting for me at the very end of this journey, whenever that may happen to be. I need to have the courage, just to believe I can truly do this.

And I will.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Big Ben struck 12

I decided to get dressed properly and slap some war paint on ... to see the New Year in ... why? It just seemed right. It felt like Cliff would be pleased, relieved even, that I made the effort.

Mammoth effort, in fact.

I am so tired.

Breathing wears me out.

Tying a shoelace wears me out ... so I more often that not, leave one undone.

22h00 my neighbour tries (unsuccessfully) to reset the boiler. He asks me to join them for NYE and I say, "afterwards ... I need to do this alone, but after ...." and he reluctantly concedes.

At 23h00 I watched the fireworks in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong ... but didn't really see them. I couldn't see the beauty in them without him marvelling at them, standing next to me.

Flipped TV channel - cue woman twittering on about NYE in London. Her smile was too big, her twittering very annoying.

Turned volume down, so that I can tolerate twittering woman ... because this channel will show Big Ben and the countdown.

11h45 - miracle of miracles. I read the texts I've received over the past week, and send "Happy New Year" to Jenny, Jean, Mark & Helen, Frances & Adam, Honey & Geoff, as well as Vicki, Lloyd, Marcus and Gary & Gaynor, and a few others. I feel as though I've just climbed from Base Camp to the Summit.

I am a cat on a hot tin roof. I can't sit. I can't focus on anything for longer than 15 seconds. I am a human butterfly, flittering about, flit, flit, flit ... my mind going off at tangents, into memories and happiness in my mind.

The moving, translucent and faded water-colours of Cliff are still present and staying with me. Growing stronger even.

At exactly 23h59 I light a candle for Cliff - "Happy New Year Baba ... I love you so much. I wish you were here." ... then light a second candle, wishing the Dragon, Warren, Dan, David, Stephen, David, Austin, Michael, and others a Happy New Year, asking them to give their soulmates strength for the year ahead.

Big Ben starts to chime ... the crowd of 200,000 lining the Thames is counting down, TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN ... and I feel the tsunami building its immeasurable and colossal force ... SIX, FIVE, FOUR ... oh fuck, here it comes ... THREE ... take huge breath, close eyes ... TWO ... panic, fear, pain, the whole kit and caboodle is hitting me, like a reverse exorcism ... and I am gulping for breath, breathing fast to help me accept the pain ... ONE.

I am crying, the pain has knocked me sideways, but I raise my glass to Cliff, "Happy New Year, Darling." Glug. And again to other absent friends. Glug.

Then, without even thinking ... I race to the backdoor to see if by some magic, he is there, as he was at that moment in time, but a year ago, having let off the last firework. He is not. I am fighting for air, holding myself in my own arms, unbelieving, yet believing ... and watch the translucent, faded water-colours of that last firework. And him. I can almost feel those arms and ... I swear I can smell him once again. I breathe him in deeply and it quietens me some.

Slowly, I return to the lounge, crying quietly now, the loss felt deep within my soul and heart - there is only sadness because the anticipation, the fear, the demons have been expelled, perhaps by him ... the tsunami has gone out for now, and the waves may still be a force to be reckoned with, but they have become a little more manageable. I can't sit or be still.

Barney tells me, in his inimitable way, that someone is approaching the house. BOING. BOING. BOING.

It is 00h05 when the doorbell confirms he is right.

I open the door and can't keep a hold of myself, which is fairly rare these days. My neighbour is there and I start screaming and howling. I don't recognise my own voice. I am detached yet feeling it all. He steps in and tells me it's OK, he's sorry, he got here as soon as he could. I can see someone else walking up the drive - a woman - and she starts to speak. And my neighbour shuts the door in her face. Literally. "In a minute," he says dismissively. She's speaking through the door, saying she's worried, she just wants to hug and see me." I still don't know WTF she is - I cannot fathom it.

The waves diminish in size and strength ... and I remember the woman standing on the doorstep in the bitter cold. "Who IS that?" I ask Paul. It's Lisa. I laugh and invite her in, offering her a drink. She hugs me and won't let go. She holds me too long and I wriggle away, just as Barney does if I smother him too much when he's not in the mood.

They have both decided, straight after kissing their families to come round to see me.

We drink, we smile, we talk. Laugh even.

The texts start arriving at around 00h45 - and don't stop till around 02h20. The last one I read is from Cliff's youngest brother John asking me to call him. He sent the text at 11h50. WTF - 2.5 hours for a text to arrive. I want to hear his voice, but decide that if he is drunk, his lovely wife Sharon will be peeved if I wake him up at this hour, so text him back to say we will talk the next day.

My neighbour tells me that his NY resolution is to "not let people down" in 2010 and he looks right at me. I ask him if that's an apology and he cannot speak, but his face confirms it is.

They stay for 2 hours and I am glad they came. I think it goes someway to demonstrate that my neighbour is genuine in his friendship and remorse. He even climbed into the attic again at 02h00 to try and reset the boiler, to no avail. I have forgiven but cannot forget - I must not. I have to learn and remember the lesson. It feels good to let go of the spite and resentment. I don't like feeling ugly - it doesn't suit me. I just can't deal with it. It totally fucks me up.

Yes, I'm glad they came round ... I might have lost my mind if they hadn't.

The vigil, the sacred and magical time has ended.

The time is now. I have to deliver on that promise I made Cliff in the dark hours of January 6th 2009, "You don't need to worry about me - I'm alright - I will be okay." I'll make a start ... I know that I'll fall over a few times during January 5th - 7th, but I have booked the time off work ... I'm walking those 8 miles with Vicki for ... Cliff and the destitute widows.

Our new year commences January 8th.

Today, many moons ago, Cliff proposed to me. He personified happiness that day, and more than anything, I enjoyed watching that. He swelled with pride, happiness and excitement. More translucent, faded water-colours that feed my will to carry on ... each breath taken for him and him alone.

Happy New Year, Baba <3