A community of peers created by the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation
''Well you came and open me, And now there's so much more I see, And so by the way I thank you...
Mmmhmm thats what friends are for mmmmm yea..''
('That's What Friends are For' - 1982 - as sung by Stevie Wonder)
A new profile pix for me, a different look on here for a while...it was taken during our meetup in Chicago earlier this year with new friends from WV. When I mentioned to another friend recently that I was considering changing my pix, one from the meetup was suggested. This particular one was chosen because, as I really looked at it, thinking about all that had happened with me since DJ died, before the meetup, during it, and beyond, the idea that this really spoke to the past year of my life came to mind. It was taken at a Chicago tourist attraction, a huge chrome sculpture of a ''Bean'', poised in the middle of a downtown park. One of my new friends from here, from another city had been constantly talking about it here, on WV and her idea was to visit it and I think it had become a serious fascination for her. Ideas about the visit were bounced around for a few months before hard plans were made, and finally, a group decided to meet there. It would be a first for me...meeting new folks, trying to connect with others after a few months of being alone, without DJ. Normally I don't meet folks easily, for so long I didn't feel the need to do so, I had DJ; but now, the idea of having new acquaintances is coming more naturally to me...in fact i'm finding it somewhat of a necessity. It is something I would not have thought while DJ was alive, that I would need, or want new friends. A group of us did meet there, at ''The Bean'', and we greeted and hugged those we had come to know virtually through the screens and the typed words of the online Village here. It was an odd sensation, meeting those with whom you have shared a most important life event with. Knowing some of the most personal emotions they have expressed regarding the loss of their partners and the circumstances surrounding that loss; and no doubt, at some point in the online back and forth, attempting to put a voice and face to the words we see typed here, and presented in our messages to one another, as we try to visualize them in real terms; then actually meeting and confirming, or being surprised by the reality of the people.
For me it was all a bit intimidating; meeting folks for the first time, I decided to take my grand daughter along for cover and as a possible distraction; I make no bones about doing that, or saying so here, it's a fact. We all met there and for a few hours we shared and cared and had a meal together. We walked around ''The Bean'', marveling at it's chrome exterior, gleaming in the bright June sun...all of us enjoying the mirrored distortions it provided as we viewed it from different angles, and even from within it. As I now think about it, this entire event was a turning point for me, tho I did not fully realize it at the time. It had forced me into a normally, uncomfortable place, and had me doing what I knew I was not very good at, doing something different...meeting people. But the day was great! The people were all so friendly and they allowed me to better understand myself and the possibilities for the different life...odd that folks you never met before can have such an effect on you...maybe it's not so odd, just new to me. And, just as important, my friend got the opportunity to experience ''The Bean'', something she had really wanted to do...small victories, we take them anywhere we can make them in our attempts to move forward.
So I'll use this pix for a while, it really represents something I think which is true for me and in a way can symbolically express what I have tried to do in the past few months; look at myself, reflect on my life with DJ and try to reach for...something...anything...to make sense of it all...maybe even trying to hold up a small part of my own world, which at times appears to want to crash in on me; that I am displaying my version of a smile is for the camera, this was still a very painful time for me, but I think I was emerging; that only I am represented in the pix is a nod to the fact that this is how I am viewed now to the world at large, alone. The distortions to our lives offered by grief are not in any shape or form always as amusing as those generated by that shining mass of gently curved metal. There at any moment we could move, or shift our position and have our image in the shining chrome change with is, we cannot do this so easily with grief; here we have to deal with the distortions produced by the loss of our partners, and those scrambled visions which grief introduces into our lives. Everything is affected...simple everyday tasks become monumental chores; seemingly innocent situations can become disaster zones, and dealing with ourselves and our memories can be a nightmare which can lead some of us to thoughts of the extreme.
In a few weeks it will have been a full year since DJ died and in that year, as expected, there have been many changes in my life. The basic day to day routine has changed, naturally, but also there has be a shift in my thought pattern and mental makeup. Through words, actions and a great deal of self reflection, I have attempted to understand the full implications of DJ's demise for me and our family. But it has been mostly through the words that I have tried to layout and deal with the myriad of emotional displacements which have been produced by such an upheaval. Recently a widow friend of mine mentioned that she was having somewhat of a rough spell...I offered some words of encouragement and quoted a couple of well accepted truisms popular in our circles; my friend thanked me and acknowledged the accuracy of what I was saying, but added ''...I know that's true Fred, but after a while they just sound like words to me. I'm trying to really live this different life and it's hard sometimes...''. I offered no response, I understand by now that many times when we feel a certain way, we just want to talk, to share the points in our own journey that those individual distortions are making in our lives at any particular time. We just need to say it out loud and have someone who understands, hear it. Sometimes we just need to be heard. But I focused on what she had said; it is true, these are just words, accepting them and making them into the reality of our different life is the real challenge. As I thought about it, I was grateful for what my friend had said, it reminded me that after all the words are spoken, written, or thought of, after all the regular and well known phrases have been spoken, the actual living of the different life has to be put into effect. Making and accepting the real changes we each decide we need to make in order to move forward is what really counts, and what will make a difference to us, basically, in the final analysis, talk can be cheap and words can come in bulk.
As the journey continues for me, I'm finding that what my friend said is very true, in a way they are just words...and over the past few months I have put out a few. The time now has come to see just how this is really translating into the new facts of this different life. The beginning may have been that first meetup earlier this year, after thinking I had to get to know others, if for no other reason than to avoid feeling that the loneliness was controlling every aspect of my life, not just the emptiness of the house. In line with this, finding that a different way of thinking could lead to better understanding of long held beliefs and ways of approaching the routine, everyday situations; this, producing a change in my behavior and my attitude. And for sure I am changed; today I realize I don't have to be right about everything, there's no need for me to try and have all the answers...the idea that I must have the last word in a given conversation has faded, and many things once thought to be important, are now found to command a lot less space in my mind. These days, for many of us, the term humility does not conjure up the sight of a bowed, hand wringing, helpless figure, barely able to face the world, but one which can appreciate their own strengths and recognize that all of us have areas of weakness and those areas are nothing which should shame us. Today the word selfish can be viewed in a larger context to encompass those things we must do for ourselves and the attitudes we must adopt in order to move forward in this different life; we come to understand that now, being without those who kept us number one in their lives, it is up to us to to be more vigilant in regards to our own well being. This is not to the exclusion of others, but more to the inclusion of ourselves, first. Putting these new ideas into action is a part of the different life I am trying to honestly practice these days, not for any outside acclamation, but because as my friend says, otherwise, these are only words, and I'm finding that making real, tangible changes, has me feeling better overall and displaces some of the pain.
So, for a while, those here will view a different image of me on these pages, one without DJ there, although she remains constantly in the forefront of my own mind, I am viewed by many others as being alone. It's okay, it may be accurate to them from their view, what really matters to me is that it is a marker on this journey that I am moving, that I am recognizing the changes within and about myself. It is a sign to me that as I attempt to come to grips with this different life, I am making the perhaps small, but significant (to me anyways) adjustments needed to accommodate a different way of thinking and living. For me, issues of whether a solo pix is good or bad, or right or wrong do not come into play in this; it represents a fact of my life, and the passing of another signpost for me. Maybe it's just something I do for my own self to feel that movement is really occurring, maybe it's a small wink of the eye to myself about the true nature of the present situation, but with no tongue in cheek.
Whatever, I feel fine with it and I think that's what really counts, I may even be starting to become one of my own new, best friends.