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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mourning

"Mourning" I like that word, better than "grieving". Softer word, I don't why people don't use it anymore. The Victorians had it right, a whole protocol on "mourning" which involved black draped windows and mirrors and a black wreath at the door, so everyone would know a tragedy had occurred -- then there was the dress "code".

Proper mourning periods in the Victorian period were as follows:

Death of husband: 30 months
Death of parent: 24 months
Death of grandparent: 9 months
Death of child: 9 months
Death of sibling: 6 months
Death of aunt/uncle: 3 months
Death of wife: 3 months

Okay, the last one sucks and is sexist... I admit!

"Deep mourning" was the first year after a husband died. Victorian widows in "deep mourning" wore black crepe dresses without trimmings. Plain black crepe veils were worn covering their faces. The veils were worn with wider hems at the beginning of the deep mourning period. Crepe, in it's finest form, is a very fragile material, tends to shred, tear easily and also black crepe will turn brown after much wear. This tattered, brown appearance lead to the phrase "widow's weeds".

After a year, the widow could discard crepe as a fabric, but still dressed in all black be it silk or satin or serge. But black, unbroken by any color. She would not wear jewels or any embellishment considered too frivolous.

After 18 months, the widow entered "half mourning" which meant she could wear black dresses trimmed with black ribbons or black lace, as well as white cuffs or a white collar. Other suitable trimmings included black embroidery, bands of black velvet, jet or black beads -- but these must be "dull" in color.

It was not suitable for a widow to go out socially during "deep mourning".

Okay, you all are wondering why am I writing this --- those who know me well, know that I have always loved the Victorian era and wrote and published a book on Victorian fashion, which I started collecting in my teenage years and am considered somewhat of an "expert" on...

But also, I am writing this because the Victorians had it right in many ways (except the widower thing, ha!). By wearing mourning dress, people actually understood what the person was going through and treated that person with respect, gentleness and care. No one would dare say such things as "get over it", "go on with your life",  etc. etc.

And I do wish we had some such signal today. Just to let people know that I am in "mourning", so please be gentle and kind.

"Mourning" went out of fashion during WWI, when the president asked the nation to stop the custom as it made for "too gloomy of a home front" for returning soldiers.

Another word I love is "melancholy" so much better than "sad" or "down" or "depressed". One of my all time favorite poems, by Tennyson is this untitled sonnet:

Check every out flash, every rudder sally
Of thought and speech; speak low and give up wholly
Thy spirit to mild-minded melancholy:

This is the place. Through yonder polar valley
Below the blue-green river windeth slowly;
But in the middle of the somber valley
The crisped waters whisper musically,

And all the haunted place is dark and holy
The nightingale, with long and low preamble,
Warbled from yonder knoll of solemn larches
And in and out the woodbine's flowery arches
The summer midges wove their wanton gambol
And all the white stemmed pinewood slept above

When in this place, first, I told my love.

I just wish more people understood. I am in mourning and sometimes give up wholly to mild-minded melancholy. It's a totally normal reaction to what I've been though.

And thank you Vindi Vin for the link you left in your comment, which finally explained a question I just asked my therapist last week (she couldn't answer it): what is the difference between "pain" and "suffering"? and that article said "Pain + Resistance = Suffering".

Makes sense to me. In other words, you need to "feel it to heal it". So -- excuse me if I linger a bit in my mourning process.

Wish black crepe and black veils were still in fashion....






Monday, April 2, 2018

Widow's Brain and other Grief Symptoms

Yes, I'm going to write about grief, because it seems no one wants to talk about it. Our society seems to think of grief as something that can be "fixed" or "gotten over" in a short period of time, but I tell you, I still suffer.

Symptoms like "Widow's Brain" -- an inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, disorientation. I can't count the number of times I've left the house to walk dog, only to find on returning, that I pocketed my car key instead of the house key and locked myself out of the house. (Now I keep a spare key hidden outside.) I still often can't remember what day it is, or month, and have to actually look up the date on the computer. The other day, I took the dog for a walk and on returning home noticed I was wearing two different shoes!  And if that wasn't bad enough, one was a grey sneaker and the other a brown slipper, and add to that I was wearing the "right" slipper on my left foot. Yeah, I wondered why my feet hurt while walking, and thought it was because my shoes were getting old.

I still cry.

I still scream at the walls.

I still have difficulty sleeping. Difficulty driving. Anxiety attacks.

I still wear our wedding rings.

I still feel like I'm living in a dream.

People say I should be "over it", and "let it go", and offer all sorts of well intentioned advice such as "volunteer" or "take a trip", join a club, etc. But when you are grieving it's not about "fixing" something, it's not about avoiding your feelings by staying busy or helping others, because death cannot be "fixed" and feelings pushed aside have ways of coming out. As someone once said, "you have to feel it in order to heal it."

Grief is a journey. A journey of the heart. A heart that has been broken into a million pieces. And, truth be told, it sucks.

Everyone deals with it in their own way.

This is my way. I own it.

That doesn't mean I like it. It means I am dealing with it in my own way. And I am doing the things I feel are right for me.

Seeing a therapist.

Swimming daily 120 laps. (OK, I admit my pool is small.)

Getting out of bed in the morning, even when I don't want to.

Writing my memoir.

Meeting up, occasionally, with friends for lunch or going to a play or movie.

These things take strength. Some days I have more strength then others. Some days, I do not cry. Some nights, I sleep better.

I am reading a book suggested to me by my therapist. It's called It's OK That You're Not OK:  Meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn't understand by Megan Devine. I'm glad my therapist suggested it, because now I don't feel like I'm going crazy. Or that I'm "taking too long". Or that something is wrong with me. I'm just still grieving. I lost the love of my life. Grief is a normal reaction a loss that huge, and it's okay to talk about it and write about it.

And this journey is going to take some time.

I miss him, every single day.

And that's OK.



PS: Kona back to her usual nutty self! Such a relief...


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Quick Kona Update

Since people are asking - and thank you all for your caring and concern.  Kona is doing better -- diarrhea gone, but she is still not 100%. Sleeps a lot, drinks a lot, and the other day when I got her tennis balls out, she was very excited at first, but after two or three throws, she was pooped out.

Vet says if her lethargy continues, may have to run a blood test, I think she said complete blood panel (or something like that) -- to see if anything else is wrong. Right now, Kona is still on medication. I'm thinking, give her some time...

Did take her to the grocery store the other day -- needed supplies (necessities, you know dog food/cat food/vodka-- that latter for mom, ha!) though I was a bit worried that she may have an accident in the store. By law, as she is a certified Service Dog, I have to carry bags and wipes (in case of liquid accidents) and do carry those but have never had to use them before and thank god, didn't have to use them this time. She was well behaved, no accidents, but was very tired when we got home.

So a quiet week here, recovering, at the Pink House....


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Kona

Kona has been very sick this past week, diarrhea, lethargic--- me-- a total basket case -- It's been a hard week -- you all know how much I love and need Kona, can't live without her, she goes with me everywhere, driving, shopping, grocery stores, etc. controls my anxiety and I need her.  She's my service dog.

So she's out there, straining to poop, nothing happening, waking me up 3-4 times each night to go out -- me with a flashlight seeing if she's "going" or not - or if "going" liquid or solid, and first tried (after talking to my vet) probiotics, anti-diarrhea over the counter meds--- no luck, then,  Hillary (my vet) ordered a prescription med  --

Last night, I thought she was dead.

She's laying on the bed, and not moving and I poke her, no response. I poke her again, no response. I am freaking out, and pretty much push her and she finally lifts her head -- looking at me, like "what?'"

Second day of prescription meds, seems Kona's getting better now--- a real poop today, whoa!!!

She's doing better today.  Bouncing around, acting normal.

Today -- we had severe weather, storms, thunder, wind, lightening, tornado warnings. jeeepers  Spent the day watching old movies.... watching Kona for any changes....

But Kona recovering -- thank god

She's feeling better, not 100% but keeping her on meds for 5 more days.....
Damn, I love this dog.
Don't know what I'd do without her.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Weekend Workshop

So, I went to a two day workshop at the end of January recommended to me by my grief counselor. The workshop was run by John Holland, an internationally known medium and author, and though I had never read his books, I had heard about him through other books I've read.

The workshop was not too far away, and consisted of Friday evening 7-9 p.m. and Saturday 10-5 p.m. The Friday event was "An Evening With Spirit" where John would relay messages from spirit to members of the audience and the Saturday workshop was centered around learning to use your own physic abilities. Both sounded very interesting, but then my driving anxiety came up.

I managed to find someone to go with me on Friday, and she would drive, so I signed for that one right away. Afterwards, I debated the Saturday workshop, it wasn't too far of a drive and I figured if I was too freaked out to drive on my own, I could always call a taxi. (I didn't know if Kona would tolerate that long of a day.... and didn't want to be disrupted if she got antsy.) So I signed up for the Saturday workshop on my own.

Then another friend decided to sign up for both workshops, and I thought, phew! She could drive the second day, but then found out she had just had shoulder surgery and her doctor told her she couldn't drive. And would need me to pick her up -- and she lives waaaay across town. Yikes.

I spent a whole therapy session talking about my driving anxieties and ways to get through this. We made a plan, since Hillary (who was going to the evening workshop) was driving, picking me up and then picking up our friend. I would take copious notes so I would be familiar with the route. Then I would get up early on Saturday, do some "visualizations" and tapping on my anxiety before leaving to pick her up.

Well, that plan got screwed up when Hillary lost her phone, which of course had her GPS on it and she thought she knew how to get there, but then we got totally lost and ended up at some Bait shop asking for directions. So much for that idea.

Plan B, that my therapist mentioned, was just to be up front about my driving anxieties and maybe Laura (the friend who was attending both workshops) could find her own way there.

After finally picking up Laura on Sat. evening, I was a basket case thinking about how I was going to handle the next day. I did google map the route (but unfortunately didn't take the directions with me that evening, but sort of remembered the main streets) and asked Laura if the way I had decided (least traffic) would work, and on our way home, Hillary drove the route I suggested with Laura giving directions. Still it was dark out and still, I wasn't sure I could do it. Hillary suggested Laura take an Uber then Laura said she has anxiety about getting into a car with a stranger! What about a taxi -- couldn't afford that  -- and she said to me, "If I don't show up tomorrow, you'll know why."

So okay -- I'm decided to be brave and was going to try this, but everything went haywire in the morning, my alarm failed to go off and I overslept. So no time to do the visualization meditation or tapping, just rush rush to get ready and then I called Laura and asked her if it was okay if I brought my dog.

So basically, I cheated. I drove with Kona to pick Laura up and then we dropped Kona off at home. Then on the way home from the workshop, we picked Kona up so that I could drive home with her. My therapist said "don't call it cheating, call it being creative."

Anyway, made the workshop, of course was praying Bob would come through at the group reading, but he didn't. The next day was very interesting, we worked on feeling auras around people and objects, and how to do a "medical intuition scan" and how to recognize signs from the other side from our loved ones and a lot of other interesting stuff. And through the workshop, John (the medium) would once in awhile stop by someone and give them a quick reading, i.e. "I see your mother next to you," and give a message but, of course, nothing for me.  Still I'm glad I went.

A couple days after the workshop, my Aunt Betty called me on the phone. This would be my father's older sister. And we had a pretty long conversation, as her husband has been in a wheelchair since the 1950's and we talked about their wheelchair van which seems to be on it's last legs and other caregiving things, then she asked me what I had been up to and I told her about the workshop and then I said (well nearly said, the only problem was the Bob didn't fucking show up!) but caught myself, thinking this is my Aunt and I probably shouldn't use the F-bomb, so I said instead "The only problem was that Bob bleeping show up!"

Then the phone went dead. Or so I thought. Complete silence. Then, I thought, oh my goodness, I've upset her just using the word "bleeping" and she hung up on me. And then I said "Hello?" No answer. Then "Hello?" again and then my Aunt says to me, "Diane? Didn't you just hear that?"

Hear what? I told her I heard nothing, dead silence.

She said, "Right after you said 'Bob didn't bleeping show up' there was a very loud  BLEEEEEEP! and it sounded like it was coming from your phone."

She laughed and said, "I guess Bob did bleeping show up!"

Well, after I hung up the phone, I was thinking about this and then I started to get a little angry. Well, you know, anger is part of grief. So there I am, literally, yelling at the walls ---

"GOD DAMN IT, BOB! I PAID ALL THIS MONEY TO SEE THIS INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN MEDIUM AND YOU DON'T GOD DAMN SHOW UP! AND THEN THEN YOU BLEEP AT MY AUNT AND NOT ME!!!!!"

I was so mad, I actually kicked my shoe across the room. Fortunately, it didn't hit anything.

And the strangest thing, the next morning, I woke up, did my usual routine, let the dog out, start the coffee, feed the cat, feed the dog and as I was going to get a second cup of coffee I walked by my bedroom and noticed the digital clock read 8:13 a.m. And thought, gee, I didn't think it was that early. When I went into the kitchen, I noticed that digital clock read 10:25. And the coffee maker digital clock read 9:18. And every single digital clock in my house had a different time on it, none of them right.

My watch was right, but that's battery operated...

I can figure no logical explanation except, I guess, Bob did bleeping show up. So I told him, I was sorry I yelled at him.

And by the way, if you ever get a chance to see John Holland, I highly recommend it! He was great.


Monday, February 26, 2018

What the -- ???

Once upon a time, before Bob's stroke, Bob bought me a vintage Kit Cat Clock, which hung in our kitchen for years. Then, after his stroke, it stopped working. Dead....

At that time, living off $1200/month (social security) and with all his medical expenses, mortgage payment of $675, etc. -- not much money to spare. So I put the clock in a box. My mother, (love ya, mom) bought me a reproduction battery operated Kit Cat Clock, which shortly after Bob's death also "died".

After searching around, I found a guy (on e-bay) who repairs vintage Kit Cat Clocks and sent our original one to him for repair. I was worried sick that it might a) get lost, or b) be unable to repair. But he was able to repair it and I got it back safely and was so excited I took a video of it to share with everyone!




But in the video -- which I took with my camera -- it looks like the clock is hanging on a wooden plank wall.... huh? We do not have a wooden panel wall -- so how on earth ----?

So I retook a video today (same place) in our kitchen just to see what would come up: and here it is, exactly where it hangs in our kitchen:

Funny, Bob loved this clock and could see it from his hospital bed. When the repro stopped working, he would point at it and say bink-bink-bink! meaning the tail wasn't wagging and eyes weren't rolling...

So for many reasons, I wanted the old cat clock restored. And must say the repair was beautifully done, clock now working perfectly, as you can see -- and you can see it from Bob's "point of view" where his hospital bed was... but what the heck? why is the first video looking like it's hanging on a wood panel wall?

The second video is taken in the same place, but shows its real home.

Anyway -- strange things happen....but I am glad to have this present from Bob to me restored. Brings me great joy to watch it!  Sort of a Valentine's day present from him this year --- last year it was ducks! But haven't seen Louise (or any ducks) this year.....