A Widow’s Conundrum

A month had passed since the funeral.  I had stayed strong on the outside for all to see and succeeded in getting through it. Now, each morning when I arose, the reality seeped in a little more each day and the shock receded, leaving me raw and vulnerable.

I went from wanting someone to mention him or console me, to wanting to hurt in silence and avoid everyone. In this stormy sea, the squalls frequently came with drenching tears or became the doldrums of not feeling anything.

There was no direction. No goals. No plans for the future. I was adrift with no forward movement.  The only constant was the ache and the knowledge it would never be the same. I was bitter that life marched on, dragging me with it.

This stage, or whatever you want to call it, differs for everyone. I know this after spending hours talking with others who, like me, have gone through it. I wanted to hurry up this stage, get it over quickly, thinking the sooner I did; I could capture some normalcy again.  Now all I can do is record my journey and know that no two are alike.

Before Darrell passed, I had ample warning he would go before I would.  We talked.  I thought we covered it all. Finances, kids, what I would do after he passed. But no amount of planning or talking helps you prepare for the actual journey and the tidal wave of confusing emotions.

I thought it would go this way. I would grieve, hurt and then rebound.  I would become a missionary in Africa or serve the homeless at a local soup kitchen.  I would devote my life to my Lord. I would be a pillar of strength and guidance to my family.  I would go on living because I thought I could handle being alone. I would be a good widow in everyone’s eyes, holding my love for him like a beacon. I would be the example of true love that never dies.

Then one night in the ER when I was deathly ill, it all came crashing down around me. I finally admitted to myself there is a difference between alone and being lonely.

I was depressed. I had isolated myself in our winter home in Yuma.  I had lost weight due to not eating and sleeping. I couldn’t see a way forward because I was so wrapped up in my grief. Ending up in the same emergency room Darrell had on the same day a year later was a wake-up call.  A stern ER doctor lectured me on what I needed to do to get myself healthy.  I listened.

I reconnected with friends. Joined chat sites. Came home to the kids and started working on the house. I picked up writing again. Went out into the community and found volunteer work at the local cancer clinic. And ran into someone I wasn’t looking for.

At first, we just chatted. Then I tried to pushing him away in a panic because I didn’t want anything more than a friend. He firmly explained it was just an offer of friendship. Since he was four years out from his loss, I wanted to know about his journey in hopes I could glean from it some kernel of wisdom, a vision of hope.

So began a wonderful friendship and the year passed. On the anniversary of my husband’s death, family and friends helped light Chinese lanterns to remember the man who loved us all. The one I released hovered over the house as if he was saying he missed me.  I was gaining more peace every day, moving forward sluggishly, but still not wanting to release the life I had shared with him entirely.

His clothes still hung in the closet. I felt I lost more of him with each change, with each item of his that slipped away. But I also knew it was healthy and to heal I needed to move on with life.

My husband and I had blended a family. Three of his kids and two of mine from previous marriages had bonded well. In fact, the kids had done far better than I had. Still, I worried about them going forward. So I tried to be a good example.

Except then, my new friend proposed. We had slowly begun to date, even though we didn’t think of it that way. We met for coffee, had lunch, even a few dinners. All the while talking about our former spouses and growing closer.

What should I do? Darrell and I had never talked about having someone else in our lives if one of us passed on. I loved him so much I never entertained the idea there would be anyone else.  What would happen now? How could I replace the love I felt for one man with another? Where was my narrative of carrying my love for my husband until the day I died?  What would the kids think? What would my friends think?  What did I think?

It seemed a widow’s conundrum. It is not that I will ever love Darrell less, nor can I. And I could never, ever replace him. In fact, I struggled with the idea I could even love another man. But I had this same panic before my second child was born.  I remember watching my daughter sleep one night while her sister stirred in my belly.  I was worried.  How could I ever love another baby as much as I had loved my first? Yet, when the second daughter was born, I fell in love immediately. Not with the same love, but a love that was hers and hers alone.

I had forgotten the heart is inflatable. It can stretch to love many. The thing is – each love is different – because each person is different.

How could I explain to those who were still grieving the loss of their father or friend, that I could still love Darrell? That the love I felt for him was there and it would never go away. It left a permanent scar that would ache every time there was a family gathering, and he wasn’t there. Or I visited a place that we had shared, and I remembered our past life together. Every holiday, every memory that crossed my mind would have a bittersweet twinge of melancholy.

Yet, I needed to move on. Continue to experience life. New loves would come in. Not to replace, but to reside alongside all the other loves that were already there.

It is lonely to live without your soul mate, the love of your life. But there are still people I love left in my life. The love that grew and was shared by two souls, who became one, now overflows, fills and touches all who are still in it. I realize I can choose to honor that love until we meet again, by living alone and always in its shadow. Or I can go out and experience continued growth to my heart and spread the love I have received.

I decided to honor my love for my husband by giving more love to another lonely heart. There are those who may think less of me or feel I didn’t love my husband enough to stay a grieving widow.  I can say I totally understand.

I understand because I once thought that way. I have learned that until you travel the road, you don’t know how the trip is going play out. I remember what I thought it would be like to go to Africa and when I did, it was nothing like the journey itself.

So it is with grief. It is the most singularly, loneliest path we will travel in life.  No one can walk it with us, and you never know where the path might lead, or what emotions you will experience.

Love those in your life who are grieving. Understand their choices may not always make sense to you. And remember one day you too will experience this path. There is no way to prepare for it except watching how others travel it.

Know that love continues to expand. It grows and flourishes when it is fed and understood. It is not meant to be locked away to die, never to be gifted again.

 

 

An Occasional Rant

The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.

I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer.  Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.

But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.

This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.

I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.

I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.

Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.

I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”

My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.

But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.

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After losing the love of my life in September, I have floated aimlessly on the waves of change, until the last few weeks. Then I decided to get back into my second passion in life.

I’ve taken control of the helm once again through the re-organization of my writing world. First was to hire someone that had knowledge of the vast digital world I am helpless in. Starting with my blog, you will notice new banners, social links and a page advertising the upcoming new book due to Mr. Richter’s skills, rickcarufel@netscape.net.   I have revised the first two books and added two children’s books as well.

For those of you who have been following my journaling on the 33 years of travel through cancer with my husband, (Living in the Shadow of Death) do not fear, I am still working on it. It will now be available on my Author website. It will be linked here and notification served through Facebook.

I needed the freedom to post again about my writing journey and to re-blog some of the awesome blogs I run across in my travel through cyber-space.

I must sadly report that I’m still editing Norse Hearts. This is a 100,000 worded romance, and trust me, grammar is not a talent of mine, just ask Chryse Wymer, http://ocdeditor.weebly.com/, my ever long-suffering editor.  But when it is finished you will be inundated with advertising joy.

Meanwhile, thank you for following my little corner of insanity.

 

And Your Opinion Is?

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And your opinion is…..what color is this dress? Really folks! Why is this even a debate?

If you haven’t seen the furor over the black/blue or gold/white dress, you are blessedly ignorant and I’d suggest you stay that way. Unfortunately for those of us immersed in social media, it has become a maelstrom of fierce opinion.

Actually, I feel it is an indicator of a much deeper problem. With the freedom of the internet comes the ability for everyone to have their own soapbox to stand on. A simple question easily becomes a heated argument.  But it also shines the light on how much discontent there is in the world today.

If you are a photographer you know how light striking an object can determine the perception of what color it is to the human eye. If you are an optometrist you know how the eye is constructed and that no one has the same vision. Color can appear different to each person. If you are a psychologist you understand that trapped as we are in these bodies, with limited senses, we feel and think we are the center of the universe. Or our perception is limited only to our five senses and they are different for each of us.

And there you go. The crux of the problem.  Perception. Since we are locked into this one body we assume our perception is the only one out there. If you disagree with me, then you are wrong because I don’t see it that way. Throughout our society on every level we see this today. Chat sites, politics, religious views, environment, money, even the lowly product or book review!

Now there are those who understand they are not the center of the universe and are curious to experience what the other person perceives. Then there are those who are stuck in their limited perceptions.

More and more, in an age where we live much more comfortably than our ancestors, we are spoiled and have far too much time to ruminate on such trivial matters. It is much different when you all are running for you live from a natural disaster, or starving to death in a drought. Our herd instinct kicks in and we suddenly put our perceptions on hold to help one another, instinctively knowing we need numbers to survive. In a time of plenty though, our self-centered sides take over and we have time to nit pic.

Of course I’m simplifying a complicated species and problem. And yes, I’m viewing this through my very limited perception. But one thing I perceive, with the internet comes a lack of respect, common sense, and manners.

I, myself, see different views of this dress and understand that some will see blue, others white. I’m okay with different views, unless I hire you to paint my house. Then we will have to discuss our different views of color and I hope we can come to a compromise.

So for the sake of peace, and your blood pressure, realize we are not all alike. Thank heavens.

Comment on Common Sense

 

CelebrationSo this 4th of July I was thinking.

My thoughts have a tendency to wander, go around, deviate and many times end up in strange places, far from the original thought. Kind of like that sentence I just wrote.

 

Normally this blog is about my writing experiences, but today, I’m going to deviate. My original thought was about freedom of course. Freedom of governing ourselves given to us by the founding father. Freedom of choice in every day matters such as buying and choosing products. From there my thought was distracted by the news that TSA has asked for a 100% increase on what they get paid to do their job and it will be passed on to the consumer. Of course from there I began to think about why large companies fail.

Ever notice how a company starts? All shiny and new, with brand new ideas? Kind of like a new story. Then the company starts to grow, like the plot of a book. Everyone is sure it will maintain it’s growth and become great, like getting into a good read. Then, it collapses. What happened? The customer and reader become disenfranchised.

It’s simple. It is always about the money/greed.  When it becomes driven by profit, you lose service. You would think it would be just about producing a great product. Nope. I have a great product, a BlackBerry. The product continues to please me, the service does not. Now I’m considering finding another phone that when I come across a problem like why does the phone keep shutting off, I can call a technician who can tell me I need a new battery, rather than having to be Sherlock Holmes to figure it all out.

Companies lose sight of what the original plan was. To provide a product that meets the demand of the customer and service to continue to keep the customer’s loyalty. When self-service was invented it was simply a capitalistic way of the company making more money. You thought you were getting a good deal when you had to put together that shelf unit you because you saved money yet in  reality the company was saving itself in labor costs. Self-service serves only the company as they cut service to you and save on the bottom line.

Eventually, the company has to keep raising the prices to overcome falling sales. Cutting services to keep up income loses the loyalty of their customers and even more sales. Eventually, they go out of business. Why? Because another new and shiny company has figured this out and brings in a product that is better and cheaper and it starts all over again.

Look around and you will discover what products have actually lasted the test of time. If you find one, you will note they produce not only a quality product but it is backed by service and is still reasonably priced. Period.

I don’t fly anymore. Between the nickel and diming for services that were once complimentary, I also have to put up with TSA agents that treat me and everyone else guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like having my simple travel plans be suspect to a darker more sinister plan. I simply want to get on a mode of transportation, enjoy the trip and arrive safely. Instead I find hidden fees, extremely complicated rules on what I can carry on. There is nothing enjoyable about a flight crammed into a tin can with no comfort unless I pay for it.  This doesn’t even include the utterly time consuming, personal-space-invading procedure of getting on the plane.

It now is a mode of transportation that has become over-priced, service-lacking, and anger inducing. Instead, I have discovered train travel. Simple. Train travel is wonderful, you can move about, and their dining is great. Service is old fashioned and welcomed.Of course if you are trying to get anywhere in a hurry, it has it’s drawbacks.

How does this pertain to writing a book? Same thing. Plots must be shiny and new. Service must be provided by giving a good story. Don’t produce one-size-fits-all stories and then increase the price as the trilogy goes on. No cliff hanging endings to force the customer to buy the next book.

As an independent author, we are a business unto ourselves. Let’s observe the mistakes the big companies make and remember what we offer as independents. Be hungry and competitive and never forget, service drives the product.

So in my convoluted way of thinking, I guess this did end up being about writing experiences. I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

 

How to Write a Hysterical, Oops, Historical Romance

Norse Hearts 3Thirty-eight years ago, for ten cents, I picked up my first Historical Romance at a garage sale. To this day “The Wolf and the Dove,” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, remains my favorite. This started my addiction to romance stories. I quickly found some to be better than others and the dream of  writing my own was shuffled to the back burner as I started raising a family.

The one part of history that fascinated me was the Vikings. So little was known about them, but they made a huge impact on the world that is still seen to this day. Through the years I gathered notes on scraps of paper, watched every documentary, checked out books at the library, visited the Smithsonian when they had a traveling exhibit, and bought research books. Thirty-eight years later, I finally decided to make my dream come true.

And that’s where it got interesting. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, but even though I had some facts in my head, I didn’t have them all. Writing my first two books had been easy. They were based on the here and now and information was readily at hand. Starting from the first page of Norse Hearts, I had to step back into time. In the 700’s town names were not the same. Language and customs were not the same. Walmart didn’t exist of course, and everything had to be made by hand. Words we use now, were not used then. To get someone from one continent to the other, was daunting and took weeks. How would I fill in the time during the journey?

Depending on the time period you choose to write about determines, of course, how much research will go into it. I was delighted to find they had a website on “How to Curse in Norse.” I found that they used more animal parts then and less curse words, much to my husband’s delight. Since it was a man dominated time period, I leaned on his manly expertise on the art of cussing, fighting and insulting.

Every story is like a well prepared meal. The courses must compliment each other, the spices must be just right. So how much of the Old Norse language do you use? How many of the strange personal names of the period can you put in before you lose the reader? How much detail do you describe about food, clothing, ships, customs and routines? How about their religious beliefs and practices?

Since I never do things that are easy, of course, I picked a time and period of history that not much is known about. So what were the wedding ceremonies like? How much fiction can I invent before it is unbelievable or not historically accurate? Even the historians disagree, so what happens when I have a reader who believes I have not done my research because they hold a different view of the facts?

Last but not least, I discovered the irritating problem of trying to write a scene, being in the moment, then suddenly realizing I would have to go back to my ocean of notes and references to find one small detail such as does Norway have skunks? Or what type of tree would they be burning in their firepit?

Though I had a lot more freedom as to plot, and my imagination went wild with the possibilities, I was not prepared for the mountain of time research would continue to play during my writing process. My husband was a dear during this time. For instance, it is one thing to see a sword fight in my mind, another to try and describe it. I know the neighbors definitely wondered about us as we picked up kitchen spatulas to simulate the moves during a sword fight so I could get a feel of how to describe it.

During one of my rants at my inability to find a tidbit of fact that I had just had the day before, my husband unwisely noted that I should not get so hysterical over such a small piece of information and the joke in the family began. I became quite cranky over the inquiries about how my “hysterical romance” was progressing!

Overall, it was a great challenge and I’m grateful I waited until this time of my life to try my hand at writing this form of romance. It is not for the faint hearted, easily discouraged, or impatient writer. It has stretched my organizational skills to the limit, but was one of the most exhilarating writing experiences I’ve ever had. Writing historically gave me a chance to develop characters who were not as confined by laws, society and religion as we have now. Because I used Vikings, I was able to create people who were not afraid to live, express their feelings or be colorful and headstrong.

Maybe it’s just that I’m now in a permanent state of hysteria, but  either way, my editor has her work cut out for her!