Into the Desert

img_7051Last Wednesday, Miss Elsie the Cat, the Roadtrek and I left San Diego for points southeast. The desert was calling my name. The dentist gave me a reprieve and so we departed into the vast Sonoran Desert.

It is winter here. It is chilly at night, if not down right cold. It is wonderful hiking weather during the day and after the rains the desert is alive and the color green is showing up everywhere. The Octotillo are already blooming here at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Why the desert? The desert is the place I go to seek solitude, solace, to think and sort and grow. There is something about the wind and the animals and the vastness of the desert that is wonderfully healing for me. I slow down and really observe my surroundings.

Roadtreking Together

Roadtreking Together

I am not alone. I met up with Mary, a friend of mine. She has a Roadtrek too. We are exploring the desert together. We get along well. One of the nice things about having our own vehicles is that when we need time to ourselves we can retreat to our tiny home on wheels. I appreciate the fact that we both are respectful of our need for our own space.

I enjoy sharing my life with others. Mary asked me if I felt that things were getting easier for me, regarding Jim’s death. This is a very interesting question to ponder. I don’t always take the time to gauge where I have been, what I have achieved, and where I am going regarding Jim. Now the question has been asked I will take some time to bring this into my awareness.

Before I left my friend Nancy mentioned she was having a hard time remembering what I was like before Jim. And there it is. I will never return to who I was before Jim. Who I was before him, during our relationship and who I am now is a cumulative effect of all that has preceded this day, this moment in time.

Years ago Jim and I rafted the Grand Canyon. It was a life altering event. After the trip was over, we often would mention before Grand Canyon and after Grand Canyon. I notice there are times where I regard my life as “before Jim’s death and after Jim’s death”. How have the past four plus years affected who I am today? Well that could be a loaded question. I mean over six years ago I was entangled in the the whole breast cancer issue, that led right into Jim’s diagnosis and his death a year and a half later.

Most of the time I see those times as a hard exercise in growing. I had always heard of others who went through periods of trauma (all kinds-you pick it) and then life smoothed out again. I am hoping that my time of trauma is smoothing out. There are issues still to address but for the most part I would like the smoothing to start.

I miss Jim. It is not often that I feel that overwhelming raw grief that carried me through the first few years. I am thankful for that. I was reminded of it, once again, after the National election results this year, and although the grief was strong I knew to step beyond it quickly. Raw grief is not somewhere I want to stay. I find I like to carry him with me, in the stories I tell and the photos I look at. I guess I feel he is here and I can still advance forward in my life.

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Most days I feel I am doing much better and am working towards sorting out my own life. Grief has no timeline. I am not even sure it ever truly goes away, it softens over time. I would like to consider the possibility that grief is softening for me. I am doing better at meeting people I don’t know well and enjoying their company. I have needed to re-teach myself how to reach out to others and know I will be accepted. Being alone most of the time is not good for me. I am enjoying the moments of meeting others and feeling valued as a person. One positive experience leads to the next.

While this all goes on within, I find I am enjoying each day, sometimes a little and sometimes much more. I am enjoying the desert. It was time to leave San Diego. I did not know that when I left and yet it only took one look at the Anza Borrego Desert, as I was coming down the mountain, that I knew I was where I needed to be.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Even in an organized campground, with people around the quietness of the desert is everywhere. I wake each morning to a Gila Woodpecker on the cactus next to my campsite. It is good to get up early to greet the dawn and enjoy the wildlife before they disappear in the warmer part of the day.

Elsie is slowly adapting to life on the road again. Thanks to the calming flower essences my friend Beth gave me, she is quietly and shyly coming out to explore. I appreciate my steady little companion on this journey of mine. At night she curls up on the bed with me. Like I said, a good companion.

I will be returning to San Diego, late in March-one more dental surgery to go. I know some of you have been waiting for an update. It is because of all of you out there in the world, known and unknown to me, that I can continue forward with the adventure of life.

Each day, I am getting ready to hike and explore this marvelous country.

My Inner Child, The Dentist & Jim

images-1I have been in San Diego for a little over a month. All scans, x-rays, and doctors appointments have been completed and the news is good. Well, almost all of the appointments have been completed. The only outstanding appointments at this time is the dentist. Yep, I arrived in San Diego with pain in my jaw (which of course I was sure was head & neck cancer). Day one was an appointment with my dentist, day two was an appointment with the periodontist, and day three was surgery to remove one of my back teeth and have a bone graft completed. Since then I have been through another gum surgery. I have one more to complete after I return from Christmas.

Have I told you that I really, really dread going to the dentist? All these dentists are very nice people but I have had very few good experiences with the dentist. It started when I was in fifth grade and continues to this day. Just in case you are not aware yet, dentists make me very uncomfortable.

No matter how hard I try to be adult and rational about all this, my little girl pops to the foreground and once again I am a mass of little girl feelings. I try to be an adult but often when I get to the dentist office and the news is not the best, I have found myself crying in the dental chair. I know I am not alone in these feelings. All I have to do is bring up the subject of the dentist and the person I am speaking with shares their own feelings of fear and dental dread.

13285233_143979346015699_1388150816_nAll of us have an inner child. I have read books about this. I have gone to workshops about this. I have, through meditation had conversations with my inner child. I think I acknowledge her existence but then, well, just mention the dentist and here she is again, taking over my present day existence.

It is bad enough I become a small girl at the mention of the dentist. This time, when I arrived for my first appointment with the periodontist, I discovered the office was in the same medical building that I took Jim to, three times a week for the last four months of his life. He received IV nutritional therapy to help him better tolerate his chemotherapy. People with head and neck cancer often receive feeding tubes because they cannot tolerate eating. This therapy also helped him live without the feeding tube.

Not only did I have to deal with all my dental fears, I also had to confront some issues around grief. Boy does that subject continue to pop up at interesting times. Once again I sat down in the dental chair, the tech came in and I started crying. Was this fear, was this grief, was this everything all mixed together? I will never know completely. It was hard to walk to elevator and return, once again to this building.

As I review these last several weeks and my visit to this dentist and building, in some ways I find this has been a bit healing for me. I have had time to reflect the moments Jim and I shared in our visits to the doctor who treated him. Jim and I always functioned well as a team. We shared everything. Some of those visits were fraught with anxiousness but we always were very good at supporting each other through our lives together. Sometimes he would sleep and I would go for a walk. Other times we sat and read. Yet other times we shared our thoughts and feelings with each other. It has made me miss him more. It has made me recognize how important those moments were in our relationship. It has made me realize how important all moments are in my relationship to all others.

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It is OK to acknowledge and accept my inner child. That little girl gives me the opportunity to laugh and play and look at the world with excitement and wonder. It is a little harder to acknowledge her when I am sobbing in the dental chair. I guess that is the time to acknowledge her most of all. At times like this I need to tell all of my selves “it’s OK”. If I need to cry, then cry. Usually after my sob session is over I can handle my time at the dentist better and I feel more adult.

Later this morning all of me is off to the dentist for a follow-up.

My Inner Child, The Dentist & Jim

images-1I have been in San Diego for a little over a month. All scans, x-rays, and doctors appointments have been completed and the news is good. Well, almost all of the appointments have been completed. The only outstanding appointments at this time is the dentist. Yep, I arrived in San Diego with pain in my jaw (which of course I was sure was head & neck cancer). Day one was an appointment with my dentist, day two was an appointment with the periodontist, and day three was surgery to remove one of my back teeth and have a bone graft completed. Since then I have been through another gum surgery. I have one more to complete after I return from Christmas.

Have I told you that I really, really dread going to the dentist? All these dentists are very nice people but I have had very few good experiences with the dentist. It started when I was in fifth grade and continues to this day. Just in case you are not aware yet, dentists make me very uncomfortable.

No matter how hard I try to be adult and rational about all this, my little girl pops to the foreground and once again I am a mass of little girl feelings. I try to be an adult but often when I get to the dentist office and the news is not the best, I have found myself crying in the dental chair. I know I am not alone in these feelings. All I have to do is bring up the subject of the dentist and the person I am speaking with shares their own feelings of fear and dental dread.

13285233_143979346015699_1388150816_nAll of us have an inner child. I have read books about this. I have gone to workshops about this. I have, through meditation had conversations with my inner child. I think I acknowledge her existence but then, well, just mention the dentist and here she is again, taking over my present day existence.

It is bad enough I become a small girl at the mention of the dentist. This time, when I arrived for my first appointment with the periodontist, I discovered the office was in the same medical building that I took Jim to, three times a week for the last four months of his life. He received IV nutritional therapy to help him better tolerate his chemotherapy. People with head and neck cancer often receive feeding tubes because they cannot tolerate eating. This therapy also helped him live without the feeding tube.

Not only did I have to deal with all my dental fears, I also had to confront some issues around grief. Boy does that subject continue to pop up at interesting times. Once again I sat down in the dental chair, the tech came in and I started crying. Was this fear, was this grief, was this everything all mixed together? I will never know completely. It was hard to walk to elevator and return, once again to this building.

As I review these last several weeks and my visit to this dentist and building, in some ways I find this has been a bit healing for me. I have had time to reflect the moments Jim and I shared in our visits to the doctor who treated him. Jim and I always functioned well as a team. We shared everything. Some of those visits were fraught with anxiousness but we always were very good at supporting each other through our lives together. Sometimes he would sleep and I would go for a walk. Other times we sat and read. Yet other times we shared our thoughts and feelings with each other. It has made me miss him more. It has made me recognize how important those moments were in our relationship. It has made me realize how important all moments are in my relationship to all others.

images-3

It is OK to acknowledge and accept my inner child. That little girl gives me the opportunity to laugh and play and look at the world with excitement and wonder. It is a little harder to acknowledge her when I am sobbing in the dental chair. I guess that is the time to acknowledge her most of all. At times like this I need to tell all of my selves “it’s OK”. If I need to cry, then cry. Usually after my sob session is over I can handle my time at the dentist better and I feel more adult.

Later this morning all of me is off to the dentist for a follow-up.

Year Four-How Are You Doing?

Jim and me on our last travel adventure together, Peru

Jim and me on our last travel adventure together, Peru

October 17th was the fourth year anniversary of Jim’s death. He was and still is (in a way) my husband. He died from metastasis of salivary gland cancer. We had a really good relationship. I miss him still.

Each year at this time I have people call me and ask how I am doing. It always baffles me, a little,when this happens. I don’t miss him more on the day of his death. I miss him every day in little and big ways. Does it mean I think of him all the time? Well no. I might find myself doing something and then think, Jim would have loved this or he would not have. I know my friends are being kind and thoughtful and I appreciate that. I am just not always sure how to answer that question. At the time they ask, I might be doing fine or more than fine. Usually I am busy.

Big Waves

Big Waves

This year I was bicycling from Monterey to Pacific Grove and back, seeing a chiropractor (I slipped on the step to my RV & thought it might be a good idea to get an adjustment) and enjoying the day outside.

While biking, I stopped to watch the waves for a while. You may have guessed by now, I love the ocean and the bigger the waves, the better. I met a woman, Phyllis who was sharing the same bench with me. I am a strong believer that not much happens by accident. Phyllis has been divorced, widowed and now married for a third time.

I have found, since Jim’s death, if I want to ask a question of someone, I just do. If they want to answer, it is greatly appreciated. If not that is OK too. I asked Phyllis about her experience through grief. I really wanted to know someone else’s take on this.  I follow a couple blogs of women who have lost a partner, yet it is not often I get to talk to someone in person about this topic.

Grief is personal, yet I have found that some experiences are common to many. My question to her was about fear. I am not usually a fearful person. Since Jim’s death, fear has become a close ally. When people say to me how brave I am, selling my home and traveling, I marvel at the comment. If only they knew how fear is usually present in everything I do. I don’t get it. I didn’t used to be this way. Phyllis works with hospice as a volunteer. She said that fear appears to be a part of the grieving process for many. It was for her. Whew what a relief, I thought it was just me.

I am curious why fear? There could be a lot of emotions but why is fear mine. I will not claim ownership, yet fear is certainly close, much of time. I don’t have an answer to that question. Fear does not have to be negative. It is a good thing when it stops me from doing something stupid. It can also be good if it increases my awareness of my surroundings. Fear, though can also stop me from trying something new or different or reaching out to others. That is not good.

imagesEach day I walk through fear, to other side and open my eyes to the world as it is right now. I step into my RV, thank Elsie for her presence, have faith that all is well with the day and move on. On the days I stay still, I read and contemplate and enjoy the quietness of the ocean and the forest and for the next few nights a view of Hearst Castle.

I refuse to let fear control me. Since fear seems to remain present in my life, I will consider it an ally. It will teach me and then one day,  I truly believe it will not be present in my daily life. As an ally I can call for fear when I need it, thank it and then put it back in it’s place until I need it again.

Moving on through my life.img_4873

 

Friendship

unknownThis month, October is always a marker month for me. First, it was when I was born. The real marker for me, however, is this is the month that Jim, best friend and husband for twenty one years died from cancer.

As I approach the date of his last admission to the hospital and then his death, I think it will get easier as time passes, yet, each year as this month rolls around, I find myself once again thinking of Jim and the events that came to pass. I know it has changed my life, yet I am not always certain how. There are the basic real life changes.

  • I am single, widowed, or something in that range.
  • I have to figure out how to do everything on my own or at least contact the right people to help.
  • I sold my house in July and currently, am full timing it in my Roadtrek.
  • I don’t have someone to talk to whenever I want. It has made me reach out to my friends more yet I miss the easy companionship we had.
  • Learning to cook and eat for one has been an interesting challenge for me. It is not as much fun for me to create a meal for one.

There are many other challenges that could be included here. I think you get the gist of it.

I have been thinking about Jim’s and my friends as this month has rolled in. I am so thankful to so many of them. Without their help and kind, loving support my walk through grief would be very different.

I have been thinking a lot of a good friend of Jim’s, Doug. For the entire time I have known Jim, Doug was a presence in our lives. I heard many Doug and Jim stories from Jim over the years. When we got married Doug and his former wife paid for our honeymoon to San Francisco. We had wonderful personalized tour of San Francisco with Doug and Lisa. They met us at the San Fransisco airport with a car rental and off we went into the city for four days. It was a delightful time.

At our important events Doug was there. The event I remember the most was around Jim’s death. Four days before he died, the phone rang in the hospital room and it was Doug. I thought he was still in the Los Angeles area. He asked if we wanted company and we both said, of course. Then he announced he was in the hospital lobby and up he came.

Doug spent the final four days of Jim’s life with me and him. There was nothing that was too little that he wouldn’t do for Jim. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. Doug was a firm presence for me to hold onto as we progressed through those four days. When I wasn’t there, Doug was. He and Jim talked and laughed and remembered times. They also caught up one more time on each other’s lives. When Jim died, Doug was there in the room as a witness to this important event as well. There could not have been a better friend and I want to honor that in this posting.

He remained in San Diego for a few days to make sure that I had my feet underneath me. When he drove back to LA and his life it was with the final words, “if you need anything, just call”.

After Jim died the Doug and Jim stories continue. I received an e-mail from Doug about a year or so ago, sharing with me the phone call Jim and Doug had the day that Space Shuttle blew up. It was a very intimate moment between two good friends. I have no doubt that this deepened and secured their friendship. I was going to share the e-mail with you, here but I cannot find it. Of course.

This is what friendship is about. We can laugh and share the good times, yet it is the sharing of the intimate and in your face painful times that marks those special and meaningful friendships in ones life. It is not often you find that friend who you can laugh, cry and share with over many years. Some may never find the depth of friendship that was shared by Jim and Doug.

Jim was fortunate, very fortunate  to have such a friend as Doug. Doug, I think would reciprocate that thought and feeling.

I have never needed to call but I do stay in touch by e-mail and Facebook. Doug travels the world with Nancy, his partner of many years. He leads a full and diverse life. I am glad that I continue to be a part of it even on the periphery.

Today I am thankful for the presence of Doug in Jim’s life and in mine. I benefit from their friendship. It helps keep Jim alive to me and reminds me, once again, how special our relationship was.

Today I am grateful for Doug. Doug-Thank you.

 

Pondering My Way Down the Olympic Peninsula

Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula

Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula

I have been on the Olympic Peninsula for the past several days. At the most Cat and I are moving south in increments of 25-35 miles per day. It is strange to be moving so slowly and it is still something I am getting used to.

Sometimes it feels like time is almost standing still. I feel like I am moving slowly through my day. I have a lot of time to ponder, big issues, small issues, issues in general. More specifically I have time to address my issues. Sigh.

Selling my home was a big step for me. It is one I do not regret. I knew I needed to move from there and it was time. I feel a bit lost. I am certainly hoping for some sort of “Ah-Ha” moment on this trip. I don’t care if it is big or small.

Shortly after Jim’s death, I met a man, who’s partner died over 12 years ago. He had been moving about since that time. He had traveled all over the world, never once returning to the home they shared. It was shut up and waiting. Shortly before I met him, he had returned to their home for the first time. He was honest with me and told me that he had been running from grief, responsibility and more. He had been having fun, experiencing many things in his distant travels. He had been running from his grief.

When I sold my house I wanted to be sure that I was not running from my grief. I wanted to be responsible for my life.  Since Jim’s death I wanted to make sure that I was not running from all that had happened in my life. Yet, here I am, wondering if I too, am not running from my grief and my responsibility to figure out what is next. Is it OK to be running from grief? Well maybe a little. Maybe the important part of this whole topic, right now, is to acknowledge and be aware that this is happening. Probably the most important thing is not to be too hard on myself. It is OK to be human and fallible.

Cat and I are getting along well, mostly. I feel we are still negotiating on becoming a team. We work well together. As I have been traveling with her, old issues have surfaced for me. Long standing issues. Long, long standing issues (self worth). It may be why I feel a bit sad and out of sorts today. I am still figuring out life. And some days, well, it kind of sucks. I know better than to wallow for long though and in an hour or so or by tomorrow morning I will pick myself up and feel better and move on.

IMG_2939 IMG_2991I am enjoying seeing this part of the world. it is beautiful and different than other places I have been. I love the misty ocean in the mornings and the beautiful clear lakes. The rain forest has been amazing, although not very wet since we have been here. The Big Leaf Maples are often shrouded in moss. Everything speaks of moisture even when not present.

Quinault Lodge

Quinault Lodge

 

Well, enough wallowing time. I am sitting in a beautiful lodge on Lake Quinault. Tomorrow I think we will leave the Olympic National Park and head south on the 101. it is a long day for Cat, 40 plus miles. Elsie and I will travel with ease early in the day and then set up camp. I will have time, then to explore.

What would help me is to have my family and friends remember me. I am only and e-mail or phone call away. It is because of my huge base of support that I am able to be out there in the world.

Today I am thankful for every single person that I know. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

 

Change-Big Change is Coming

Search-Colorado-Springs-MLS-Homes-for-SaleThis past Monday, my realtor and I went “live”. My home is up for sale. I have been working on the house since February getting it ready for this moment. My broken ankle slowed the process down for a few months. Now that I am walking and doing better each day, it is time.

Today, Tuesday, two interested parties came to view the house. When I received the first call, I was nervous and excited and a bit anxious and scared all at the same time. There are so many mixed feelings with this move.

cardinstallation_02@2xEver since I was diagnosed with breast cancer I feel as if my life has been tossed up in the air, like a deck of cards. While I was picking up the cards from this incident, Jim was diagnosed with cancer. Up went the cards again. Eight months later he was diagnosed with a metastasis from the original cancer, up the cards went once again. With his death all those cards have been taking their time coming down. I have been slowly picking them up, one at a time. Picking up each one has certainly been taking time. No set schedule here.

I thought I would sell our home  3 months after Jim died. I now understand that was way to soon. Grief needs time and I needed somewhere comfortable and secure and safe to manage the initial stages of grief and loss. There was nowhere better than the home where Jim’s and my relationship flourished.

Janet driving in the alley in Chicago(3)

Me & the Trek

I have been trying to figure out what is next in my life since Jim’s  death. I have been waiting for a grand moment of awareness. It has not arrived. I am going looking for it. Miss Elsie the Cat and I are going to make my sweet little Roadtrek into our home for the next year. It may be longer than a year or it may be shorter but I have decided to go traveling. I love to travel. I enjoy learning and meeting new people and exploring this grand country I live in. And to create some expansiveness, I am including Canada in my travels, as well.

Link to Listing

I don’t plan to set out until the house sells, unless it is on the market for a while. If that happens then I will be heading out before it sells. Maybe I will figure out where I want to live. If not it will be one grand adventure. I look forward to seeing friends, friends who I have known forever and newer ones as well.

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The nervousness and anxiety comes from the unknown. It is a little overwhelming to put my trust out there in the universe that all will be OK. I have moved several times in my adult life. Each time has been just a wee bit harder than the last one. I am not sure why that happens, but I do think it has to do with age. Maybe as I have gotten more mature I have found myself more settled with each move. I do have friends in so many places and I hope to meet up with as many as I can. It is time to catch up.

I am getting ready to roll. What should I take? What should I leave? Where am I going? Is this crazy?

Then there is the house. It takes a bit of effort to dismantle a house. I have been in the process of doing this for the past few weeks. I still have a ways to go, yet even this is manageable as long as I don’t get too stressed.

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Miss Elsie

And then there are the memories. Sigh. Even this is OK. It can even be therapeutic. And the bottom line here, is I need move ahead with my life. I want to create adventure and exciting, happy challenges. I am ready. Miss Elsie, well who knows but she is coming along for the ride.

Getting ready, change is in there air.