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The Steppes Of Russia


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Friends,

Shortly after Jane died I had a conversation with myself. I whined to myself that all the firsts were going to be back-end loaded. Of the important days in our year, only Valentine's Day and my birthday fall in the first six months of the year. Christmas was awful, but I was still so stunned and numb that I can hardly say what happened then. Our retirement, our anniversary, Halloween, her birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas...I saw that as running a gauntlet that would be survivable only because, with one exception, there would be time to recover between each blow.

This week, I discovered that will not be true. I have felt blue for days. Usually, after the tenth of the month there is a one or two day hangover of grief. This month that grief has only deepened. I could not figure out why. Yesterday, it hit me: this is the week her doctor told her she probably had cancer--though we would have to have a biopsy to be sure. It stopped us in our tracks and changed everything. Every week from now until mid-November holds some moment in it that threatens to over-power me. And from November 11 to December 10, every day has that level of body blow in it.

I know i have to face one day at a time. My conscious mind knows that. But my subconscious has this way of bouncing beyond the conscious mind's control. So it seems i am headed back to the minute-by-minute level for a bit--maybe for months.

It stretches out before me, to steal a line from an old friend, like the snow-filled steppes of Russia.

My wife is annoyed with me right now. I can hear her voice: keep moving forward. But I'm tired. I finally understand how she felt at the end--tired and wanting to go home. I tried every minute to buck her up, to give her positive energy, to not let her see how worried i was every day. Now, she tries to do the same for me.

And i try to do the same for me. People survive this. They find purpose. They go on. They do what they are called to do.

But today, I just want to wallow in it for ten minutes.

Then pick myself up and get back on the trail. I have walked every day in all this. I have even begun running some every day. I keep trying to move forward against this awful tide--I've even tried the undertow trick of swimming sideways. And I still can't shake this sadness that threatens to pull me under.

Maybe a good night's sleep tonight will help. I don't know. I just know i have to keep fighting my way forward.

The mail i am getting from former students reminds me I have done good work in the world. But it also reminds me of how much work still lies in front of me. It scares me sometimes. But it is enough to get me through this dark night of the soul.

And i know that is what this is. Positive things still happen to me and around me every day. I just have to keep remembering to look for them.

I will get through all of this. The best steel goes through the fire over and over and over. And when it is done it is a blade that will hold an edge in even the darkest hour of the darkest battle. I am in that forge--and what will emerge will either be slag or that sharp steel i need to be.

So bring it on. I may have these dark moments to get through, but there is a pony in here somewhere.

Peace,

Harry

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Harry,

You mention that your wife is annoyed with you right now...maybe not, maybe she's empathetic...after all, this is something she never had to face and doesn't know how she'd fare if she was in your place. Personally, I think it's harder on the ones left, even though the ones that passed on did so through a wall of great pain.

You are right...one day at a time...or one minute, or whatever you can handle at the time.

My heart goes out to you.

Kay

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Harry, dear, you sound so tired, and my wish for you is that you will simply stop "doing" and just "be" for a while. Clearly you are determined to go on, but you put such enormous pressure on yourself to keep going ~ are you aware of that? It seems to me that sometimes you just need to give yourself permission to stop and rest. Remember, too, that in addition to all that you've identified in your post, you're also dealing with your retirement from teaching, and that in itself is a significant loss which requires time and effort for you to experience its effects fully and to mourn all the secondary losses associated with it as well. "Today I just want to wallow in it for ten minutes," you say. Ten minutes?! How about the next ten hours? Get some rest. Sit down and relax. Clear your mind. Stop planning. Stop doing ~ just be. Just breathe in and breathe out, and rest . . . And when you go to bed tonight, I wish for you what my father always wished for me when he would kiss me goodnight: Roses on your pillow

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Harry,

I know your pain, I have felt more this month than others before. I watched Pauline for years slip away a small piece at a time. I always was so strong and tried with all my might to give Pauline my strength and positive energy. After she Passed I felt I failed her. I did not though she was tired and in so much pain all the time, she was ready for it to stop. We prayed every day for God to give her grace and for me the strength to keep going doing my best for her.

Harry you are not alone with these feelings. I have them also. By the Grace of God he slowed me down, to give my body time to rejuvenate, so I can get on with my plans of becoming a nurse to help as many people as I can. You have done that along with Jane as a teacher. A very good one at that. Like MartyT said slow down let your body and mind rest. It was 33 years on July 4 that Pauline had our first date. It was a gift from heaven. I will never forget, but Pauline wants me to go on and she would never be disappointed with me. I am sure Jane could never be disappointed with you either. You are a kind gentle soul and a good man who gave it all for the love of your life JANE.

God Bless you, rest ease, clear your mind and soul, tomorrow never comes we only have today, and we can not go back to yesterday. Like all of us would like to do.

Dwayne

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Harry

I struggle every day now with the question 'what I am here for'- when it was always so very clear before. My life path has had a massive landslide put in it and I want to get to the other side to see where it might take me next, I really do, but I need time to work out the best plan of attack.

Over the last 2 years I have learned that it's OK to move forward slowly and that taking the time to look after your soul, is not time wasted. Nor is it self indulgent to really let yourself feel the hurt, after being so deeply wounded. Great love...great loss.

For me, I seem to need the really tumultuous private and painful meltdowns which come from time to time to somehow drain me then give me the courage to go on again tomorrow.

Marty's advice is always spot on - you need to give yourself a chance to slowly think through this great upheaval at a deeper level- if you don't hasten slowly now, it will catch up with you later. Unfortunately stopping and letting the pain in exposes us to all kinds of emotions, but it also gives us some insight to how we are truly feeling on the inside. Keeping busy masks it but not for long.

Jane would want you to survive her loss in the best possible physical and mental shape. You can't do that if your focus is always on the needs of others and making a contribution at the expense of YOU....Susie Q

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Harry:

All the comments are correct. You are competitive and a go getter I can tell. But you have had some major changes in your life with the loss of your Jane and a huge change by your retirement. I retired 10 days before Randy was diagnosised with the cancer. 16 months of caring for him, dr. appt. chemo, radiation, etc. now I am here with no one and nothing and trying to define who and what I am. I was an administrator and the stress was high but I had a purpose and hopefully made a difference. That is now gone and I need to find out what my purpose is now. That is a hard one. Always being active and so much on my plate and now way too much time on my hands, but that is what is needed. Physically, mentally and emotionally. A major slowdown to figure it all out. I don't know about you but alone time is hard, memories, tears and lonliness. But I know that I need to go through the darkness of the tunnel before I see the light again. So... My thoughts are bring it on. Slow down and smell your flowers and enjoy your hummers and cry your heart out. It is okay and needed.

Blessing and peace to you

Becky

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Harry, I agree with all those who sense the presssure you put on yourself. When I saw that you just wanted 10 minutes my first thought was maybe you need 10 days to just get up and be. We caregivers tend to be hard on ourselves. You have just retired. You and Jane had dreams and plans, all of which are gone. Retirement is also finding a new normal just as losing Jane means a new normal. I vote that you put your feet up, listen to your voice within each day and ask yourself what FEELS good to do. And maybe that is watching the Cubs lose, or taking a walk, or going to a movie or nothing. Be peaceful friends as you walk this rubble laden path. I can feel your fatigue because I also am exhausted. I know what it feels like to get up each day and know that once again you have to climb Mt. Everest only to climb it again tomorrow. Time for a break. I also think taking breaks from pushing ourselves helps us regain energy and walk this path with a bit more ease. I wish you a restful day today and tomorrow and the next day and....

I believe that I have gotten sick so much since Bill died is due to the fact that I could not allow my body to collapse as his only caregiver for 4 years. I pushed and pushed myself to give him the best care I could give him. I did not even realize how tired I was and how it affected me (and him) until it was all over. Doing grief work is hard enough. I know how sad you are. In the article I posted yesterday, the author talked about profound sadness...those two words said it all to me and to you too, I bet. Ease up, friend.

Peace

Mary

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Hi Harry,

I can so relate to where you are. Luckily I was told by my grief counselor the first time I met with her that for a lot of people, between the 6 and 9 month mark things start to get overwhelming again.....because if I had not known this I would have thought there was something wrong with me. How could I start making progress, and then feel like I've done a total backslide? Well, the way I figure it, it's because around this time the numbness that your body so kindly creates to get you through the first few months, well....it wears off and you are really starting to feel all the raw emotions.

And as far as allowing yourself to wallow for 10 minutes? Wow, I've said those words myself! I know what everyone else responded is true, that we should allow ourselves so much more than that, but little chunks is all I will allow myself too. Why? Fear. Pretty plain and simple......I come from a family of wallowers. What if I allow myself more than 10 minutes, and then can't pull myself out of it? For me, 10 minutes is manageable. I can pull myself out of 10 minutes of wallowing. Any longer than that, I'm not sure. So yes, we should be kinder to ourselves, we should allow ourselves more, but for me - I can't undo 40 years of who I am to accommodate this grief thing! :)

Your dark moments reminded me of this quote:

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."

I just think your inner light needs a little recharge Harry....so allow yourself those 10 minutes and then listen to Jane and keep moving.

Hugs,

Tammy

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Harry,

I will see you on Wednesday evening. Keep well my friend.

God Bless

Dwayne

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Harry, it is true that you are going through a lot of changes. The greatest one being, of course, the loss of Jane. You do seem to push yourself,understandably, and of course, retiring is a very big change. Having just retired myself, I can understand that also. Wallowing for awhile is sometimes just necessary, and I guess each of us has to decide how much is enough. My only fear, when I wallow, is that I will just continue and not pull myself out....and it is up to me to do that. I suppose that is one reason I try to stay pretty busy, and involved in the theater company and arts council. But sometimes I just have to stop, and be quiet for awhile. Praying that you can relax for a bit, and gather strength, and do whatever is necessary and right for you!

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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Friends,

Thank you all. I checked in briefly last night, read Marty's advice--and those of you who had posted to that point and decided you were all right--that I have been pushing myself very hard. So i just crashed everything last night. Watched a hideous bit of comedy. Went to bed early, slept ok, ignored the alarm clock I forgot to turn off, discovered I had left the laundry out all night--and instead of getting mad, just laughed. I largely took today off. I talked to a friend yesterday who told me i was spending too much time wrapped up in the cancer war and needed to stop thinking about that for 24 hours. So I largely did. Another friend called this morning and let me vent for a bit, then talked about doing a hike some day next week after this unbearable weather breaks. I spent the afternoon thinking and realized that this is like climbing a rock wall: sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forward. Then i watched another bad comedy and laughed some more.

Tammy, I so know what you are saying. I haven't had a drink since Jane died for the same reason. I have had to haul myself back from the brink of madness a couple of times since her death. Insanity runs in the family as well, so I am very careful there as well. And if I really let myself wallow it opens up the drinking and all the other demons I really do not want to fight with from inside the bottle/madness/whatever.

And Jane and I talked a bit. And I realized she is not disappointed in how I am handling this--that we always have a tough time with these early separations. Our souls have been linked for so many lifetimes...

I feel better today, but plan another early night. It amazes me what a single good night's sleep can do for me. And we will see what I feel like doing tomorrow.

But thank you all again for your advice and your kind thoughts.

One more note to write, and then some sleep.

Peace,

Harry

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Friends,

Took it easy again today--other than doing some cleaning and getting the computer out of the bedroom. Putting it there in the first place was a mistake, but i thought I would have to hook it physically to the modem at the time. The modem turned out to be wireless, but i never had the will to move it--despite all the things I've read that say it is a bad idea.

I seem to be back on the upswing--though how long that will last is anybody's guess. One hour at a time today. One hour at a time.

I am going to make it another early night. Strange dreams last night about a building with Jane's name on it. Very strange--first time I remember ever dreaming something like that.

One last post to make--and then to bed.

Peace,

Harry

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Harry,

One of the things I learned in my grief journey was that you cannot circumvent grief...there is no way but straight through it. Sometimes our busyness can prolong grief because we're using activity as avoidance...but when all is said and done it is still there waiting for us and we have to deal with it eventually. Keeping busy is good...but it's also good to take time for ourselves and just breathe...cry, voice our feelings audibly or with pen or art. And it's okay to talk to them...no one will think we're nuts, and if they do, who cares?

Wishing you well today. "Dark Night of the Soul"...I could write a book about that. Such a hard thing to go through, and yet the blessings and lessons are many...really, not a thing to fear, but none of us view it with anticipation. Such a deep thing.

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Harry, I believe that part of the reason I have had so many illnesses, car accident, falls and now pneumonia is not only because of the exhaustion of four years of caregiving but because this last year since Bill died has been so very taxing to my body/mind/spirit. It has challenged me in ways I never knew existed but I also know I have done too much and that only added to the fatigue I felt from caregiving and grieving Bill.

I was afraid if I did not accept every lunch invitation, attend every event etc that I would be alone. Well guess what..I am alone. I have now been alone for close to 12 days due to sickness again....NOW I get it. I hope. The message-SLOW down. BE. I AM alone and no amount of doing, lunches, plays, can take that away. I thought I was balancing all of it but in hindsight I know I was not, if I am honest with myself.

Many of us here have pushed ourselves for various reasons when our bodies are totally exhausted from grieving and caregiving. It is time to become "monks"...balance the life out there with the one inside....balance being and doing...balance expectations of ourselves with reality...I am glad you have slowed down these last couple days but when you say you are "on the upswing"...I hope that does not mean increased doing. Just a thought as I sit here learning more and more what I need to do. Mary

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Friends,

No. Beng on the upswing only refers to my state of mind. I have still not pushed myself this week. And i have been better about not putting pressure on myself for what i am not getting to. I have fallen off the wagon a little tonight--largely because I had group and found some mail I needed to get to when I got home. The gas bill does not pay itself and i am so absent-minded that i will forget it all together if I don't pay it when it gets here.

But today I could move from one hour at a time to one meal at a time. That feels very much better.

Night all.

Pax et lux,

Harry

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Dear Harry,

Good for you to stick with the plan. Take it from one who knows....we MUST be gentle with ourselves. One meal at a time sounds good...I like that idea since cooking for myself seems to be an issue. I wish you quiet moments, no pressure and few expectations of yourself. Peace, Mary

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Dear Ones ~ This seems to fit here . . .

The Daily Om, July 19, 2011

Staying Afloat

Riding the Wave of Life

While riding the wave of life you must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave's motion.

Our lives are continually in motion, buoyed by the wave that is the universe's flow. As the wave rises and falls, we are carried forward, through life's high and low points. The universe's flow may take us to a place in life where we would rather not be. As tempting as it can be to fight the direction and size of this wave that propels us, riding the wave is intended to make life easier. When you ride the wave, your life can evolve naturally and with minimal effort. Riding the wave, however, is not a passive experience. It is an active process that requires you to be attentive, centered, and awake. You must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave's motion. Read more here >>>

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Ah Marty,

Sometimes the universe really does play games with us. Today, every time I tried to do something something else came up to demand I not do that but do this instead. For a while it was frustrating--but then I remembered precession: the more we try to go in one direction the more the forces around us pull us from that direction. So I let go of what I wanted and listened to what the universe wanted. Your note just underlines that and reminds me that the pattern is what the pattern is.

What I really need to do, I think, is go sit by the river for a while--or go walk the beach--one or the other of which I will do tomorrow night, I think. It is going to be too hot to do either during the day tomorrow. But I have an invitation to go out tomorrow afternoon, so it may be Saturday before I get there. Either way, I expect the waves or the river will be laughing at me. And that will be ok--so long as they don't mind me laughing back.

Thanks to you all. Time for this little black duck to get some sleep.

Peace,

Harry

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