Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Update on my last post

This past weekend wasn't the best emotionally and that has carried over to this week. My allergies have been acting up. I was so miserable Sunday at my widowed people's dinner, I snapped at two ladies who were there as guests. I was also upset that they were invited by a member who wasn't there and who let me know they were coming 3 hours before dinner when I had set the RSVP deadline for 5:00 the evening before. Plus they thought they were walking into more of a bereavement group format which is not what my group is. Of course I apologized to them, but I am really at a crossroads with this group as we are starting to get more and more members who are over the age limit I set which is turning this group into something other than what I intended it to be. If I wanted a Hospice-type group, I would still be going to the Hospice group.

But I am getting off-subject. My allergies are certainly not helping anything. I am tired-exhausted really-and that and a lack of exercise is making it harder for me to keep my mood up. And I have been taking it out on myself: I'm too fat. I'm so unattractive. I have stupid hair. My clothes suck. I'm not worthy. The last couple of days I have been completely filled with self-loathing. (WTH? James has "Bye, Bye, Bye" by *NSync on his computer?! Ah, compilation CD. Order is restored). I don't know when I have last hated myself as much as I have the last few days. And since I have been home more the last few days I am realizing that I can't handle the loneliness. The fun Meetup group is just an escape-a way to not be lonely, even if it is only for a couple of hours.

So this morning when I got to work, I sent my friend a text message telling her she could give my e-mail address to her Facebook friend. It's not that I have changed my mind about meeting him. I just don't want to be alone and guys aren't exactly lining up to meet me. And as the little voices keep telling me, he could be a great guy with a perfectly logical explanation for being a never married 40-year-old who lives with his mother (but has his own phone line), who may or may not have stayed in the same entry level position for the last 23 years and who doesn't feel it's necessary to pay his property taxes. (Note to the voices: if this turns out to be a nightmare, you no longer get opinions). So we'll see if he contacts me. It could be that he wasn't actually interested in me but rather was just interested in game night. And really, I'm okay with that.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

To be set up or not

Wednesday morning I asked God to help me accept being alone for the rest of my life. I asked Him to help me come to terms with James being the only love I was meant to have in my life. I told Him I was done wanting that happiness in my life since all signs were showing me it was clearly not in the cards.

Later that day, I got a text message from my friend that one of her Facebook friends wanted to meet me. I wanted to know why and if he was the guy she saw in her dream. He had posted something on his Facebook page about wanting to meet someone special now that Spring is here. (On a side note: yesterday was the first day of Spring. My allergies are so bad this morning, I couldn't stop sneezing long enough to go back to sleep after letting the dogs out at the butt-crack of dawn. NOT liking Spring so far!!)

I looked at his profile, but it is mostly private so I couldn't see much of it. He's not bad looking but I also don't know how old the pictures are he posted. From what I could see of his profile, I didn't feel a strong desire to want to meet him. So of course, I had to over-analyze this to figure out why? Is it because I'm not ready? Is it because I feel there is a lot of pressure to make it go well when a friend sets you up?

Trying to be open-minded, I talked to my friend about it to see what she could tell me about him other than what I could see on his FB page. It turns out he is a casual acquaintance of hers from high school that she doesn't really know that well. I sent her a list of questions I wanted answers to before I completely made up my mind. I did a Google search to see if I can find anything out that would be a huge red-flag. Because sadly, that is what dating has now come to thanks to the ease of the Internet for predators and stalkers to meet their victims. He has a name that could easily belong to more than one person in this area, so it is hard to say if what I found out was actually him or someone else.

I have been leaning towards not meeting him for a couple of reasons. First, I would feel a lot better about it if my friend knew him better. Second, I'm still not sure how I feel about being set up. Third, if I did Google the right person, I'm not comfortable with what I found out. And I thought "well, maybe I'm just not ready." It seems like I think I am ready but when an opportunity presents itself, I find reasons not to go (okay, so there have only been two opportunities since I started to feel ready to start dating). But there is that niggle of "well, he could be a really great guy."

So I decided not to decide. I decided I would see if my friend could get my questions answered. (I should probably tell her this). I have some things I want to know about a person upfront before I agree to meet them. I don't want to waste either of our time if there is no chance for a second date because of some deal-breakers I am not willing to budge on at this stage in the game, especially since I have met a couple of men who are legally single non-smokers who like dogs so I know they do exist (now why can't one of them be interested in me?).

I put it aside in my head and went to a Meetup event. It was a free concert that was expected to be packed (it was) and I got there early to help the organizer of our group save some seats. I was hoping to take pictures of the group playing so I staked out a spot at a table in the back of the room, leaving my coat and sweater at other tables to reserve seats. I thought it would be less disruptive to the other concert-goers if I was in the back of the room when I got up to take pictures. (It turned out I was too far from the stage and there were too many people standing behind me to get up and take pictures). I ended up sitting next to a guy who was new to our group. Partway through the show, I had a strong urge to give him my number. I didn't because I am a chicken, but I don't know that I have ever felt the need to give a complete stranger my number. I got home and texted my friend that I was home (I love that she wants me to text her after these events so she knows I'm safe), and that if I ruled the world, I had spent the evening sitting next to MH #2. (Who, like the man in her dream, does have wavy brown hair and is clean-shaven, which I didn't clue in on at first as I was trying to figure out who he reminded me of. I finally realized it was Andrew Keegan from when he was on "Party of Five"). Then I looked at his profile on the group site and decided he might be too smart for me.

Yesterday, I was having a bad day. I felt so alone and unattractive, to the point I asked my friend if my godson even likes that I go to his soccer games and would have had really hurt feelings if she had said he didn't really care (he's 13; I'm sure whether or not I am going to be there is the first thing he thinks about on game day). I went to a Meetup event last night, our 6 month anniversary party, but my heart wasn't in it. I cried on the way home. It wasn't until this morning that I realized there were people there last night that were genuinely happy to see me; that there are people in the group that really like me. (Feel good moment: being told by one member he looks forward to seeing the pictures I post because I am the best photographer in the group).

In my perfect world, I will meet someone through one of my Meetup groups, we will hit it off and something will develop from there. I don't think that is out of the realm of possibility, but I'm not really sure how likely that is either given there are a lot of women my age in these groups but very few men. I haven't met one yet that has any interest in me whatsoever so now I am back to wondering if I should meet my friend's Facebook friend or at least find out more about him, even though I don't really want to. I think I'll call my mom ($10 bucks says she says "I don't know Heth"). If nothing else, she can make me feel better by babying me about these damn allergies.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good-bye my friend

The beauty of the Internet is that it allows you to connect with people who would not otherwise come into your life, whether it is a customer contact at work who, over time, becomes a friend, a special someone met on a dating site, or a friend made due to a common interest.

In the spring of 2001, I was a fan of the "General Hospital" spin-off "Port Charles." Not many of my friends are soap fans, and those who are watch different ones than I. There was a storyline on "PC" that I really wanted to discuss with other fans of the show. ("PC" made vampires sexy way before Stefenie Meyer-and yes, I'm a "Twilight" fan). So I went online and found an ABC message board site. I started posting there regularly with other fans of PC, but it wasn't long before my focused shifted to the "General Hospital" boards.

Over time, I started to develop a network of friends with these other women (and one guy). When the show sucked, we would post about other things and we got to know each other beyond who our favorite characters were and what we thought of the current storylines. There was a long stretch of suckiness so we got to know each other quite well. Our online friendships progressed to the point we were comfortable exchanging Christmas cards.

One of the women I "met" on the site was a lady named Janis, aka "Indyjan" due to her love of Indiana Jones. She was older than I-old enough to be my mom as I was one of the youngest members on the board-but I enjoyed posting with her. She had quite the sense of humor! And quite the thing for Harrison Ford!

And then one day, someone mentioned that we had all been posting for years and several members of the group had been able to meet in person. Wouldn't it be great if we could agree on a central location and all meet for a weekend? I wasn't sure how I felt about that-I mean, really, how geeky is meeting up with a bunch of women from a soap board?! But James talked me into going, so off to Vegas I went. (I'm not really sure how it was determined Vegas is a "central" location, since it clearly isn't in the middle of the country). And I had a blast!

There were six of us who went. Four girls and two very brave husbands. One of the women was Janis, or Indy, as we called her. Her husband was one of the two very brave husbands. It only took a few minutes to see how much in love they still were after about 30 years of marriage. He was so protective of her. Although, he was a bit of a reluctant co-conspirator when we decided to track down the RV of the other couple that was with us so T's favorite character could leave her a love note and I decided it had to be in a guy's handwriting to be more authentic. He was a trooper, however, and luckily, we had found the right RV. We were envisioning the end of a marriage had we been wrong!

We reverted to childhood playing the boardwalk games at Circus Circus. We had tickets to see "Avenue Q" at the Wynn (talk about one extreme to the other!) and Janis said it best when she said that place was champagne and caviar and she was beer and pretzels. My response to that was "I like pretzels." We caught the eye of the security guard as we gazed at the really big and really expensive jewelry and I held up my hand to the window to see how a ring would look on my hand. Why is really expensive jewelry always so ugly? We joked that we could see the playboy of "General Hospital" at the high rollers table. We saw the Strip shut down so the Mexicans could do their first annual protest walk. We had a great weekend in which online friends became real life friends as well.

We continued to post together on the boards. I have fallen very far behind on "GH" (I'm on last summer still. I stopped watching after James died and a young character on the show had just lost the "love of his life"-although on soaps that changes often-and I couldn't handle the storyline, although they did a great job with it). As a result, I have become an infrequent poster, but I think about my girls often and miss posting with them. But with the advances in social networking, I have become friends with most of them on Facebook-there are a couple who still haven't taken that plunge. I kept up with Janis that way.

Yesterday morning, I received an e-mail through Facebook from another member of our little group letting me know she was thinking of me because she was sure Janis's death by sudden heart attack had to be bringing up painful memories for me. I hadn't been online much Sunday so this was a shock to me. And my heart just breaks for her husband and their daughters. I know the road ahead having lost James and my dad and it isn't an easy one-and it is especially hard when you have no warning.

I can't believe she's gone. That there will never be another post on the boards or on Facebook from her. She and her husband kept a community theater going in their hometown; there will never be another status update letting her friends know it is their last chance to buy tickets. There will never another status update letting everyone know what a wonderful job the cast did and how proud she is of them. I wonder if she will meet James in Heaven? (The other angels are in trouble if that's the case-they'd wreak havoc, I'm sure!).

Our group has seen loss before, but this is the first time that it has been one of us and we are all just in shock over it. I keep thinking that I can't have anymore of my family members die because I don't have many left. But I was wrong. I lost a sister-not a biological one, but one I chose to have in my life.

Good-bye, my friend. You are already missed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Because I wasn't busy enough

I have been busy lately-very busy. I am still volunteering once a week and will continue to do so until the end of May. My other two regular volunteer commitments will either end in May or June. They will happen in May; June is played by ear. These will resume when school starts again in September.

I still have my bunco group that meets once a month, but the other one seems to have dissolved. I wasn't enjoying that one as much so I am not sad about that and a couple of us are thinking about doing a monthly game night instead, with a smaller (and closer-knit) group of friends. I joked that was going to be my outlet for parading potential boyfriends around (should I ever find someone to parade around).

My young widowed group still meets once a month for dinner and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. And I continue to do things with the other Meetup group-I usually do at least one event per week with them. Friday I saw "Easy Rider" with 11 others from the group; tonight some of us are seeing "On the Waterfront." I have been assured by a couple that were there Friday I will find tonight's movie a lot less disturbing!

I attend the occasional soccer game to watch my godson play. I say occasional because as a soccer godmom, I have the option to be a fair-weather fan. Even still, I have seen more of the games than some of the actual parents, and that makes me sad for the kids. What was really sad was when my (then) 12-year-old godson pointed that out to his mom.

So I am busy. Maybe a little too busy. My widower friend has expressed concern more than once that I am doing too much and should slow down. I know he's right and I keep saying I am going to, but then something gets posted to the calendar that looks really fun so off I go again.

One of the things that keeps getting posted is a volunteer opportunity at the Food Bank. The group has been doing it twice a month and it fills up fast since the limit is 10. I have missed out on it a couple of times because I was on the wait list and didn't get bumped up. A few members of the group who I have done the project with have said how much they have enjoyed it and they were "hooked."

I noticed that the last occurrence of the project is posted for April 6th-for which I am the event host. The group's organizer posted it but can't go and asked if I would fill in for him since I am going to be there anyway. (This was awhile ago). Because of the feedback I have heard and because my other volunteer projects are going on hiatus, I e-mailed him on Thursday and told him I didn't want to step on his toes, but I'd heard good things about the project from other members of the group and I would be willing to take that on to keep it going. I also told him that the Clark County Historical Society puts on two vintage 1860's style baseball games during the summer and I thought that would be a fun thing for our group to do. (And it's free!).

His response to my e-mail was to make me an assistant organizer for the group, which means I can post activities to the calendar. I will be e-mailing the contact person at the Food Bank tomorrow to get on their calendar for the next few months. When it gets closer to summer, I will post the baseball games. And if something comes up in the meantime, I will post that too. While several of us have no problem with going over to Portland for these events, it would be nice to have some on our side of the river too.

I didn't really need any more to do. If anything, I needed less. I'm happy about this though. I think this will be good as it will encourage me to keep my eyes and ears open for fun events and will help to keep me moving forward both as a core member of this group and on my personal journey.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

There is light

I had a much needed appointment with the therapist today. As she was out of the office for two weeks last month, I have not been in to see her since mid-January-seven weeks ago. I told her I think I can handle 6 weeks between appointments but seven is too many. She agreed.

I had two concerns I wanted to discuss with her today. The first was how not to let the feeling I have nothing to look forward to in life not spiral into full-blown depression. I knew this was not something she could give me a step-by-step answer to, but I figured any answer was better than nothing. She told me that after her husband passed away, she spent a lot of time telling everyone her life was like a straight line, that before it had peaks and valleys along the way and now there was nothing but a straight line. That makes sense; I can relate to that. She also said I need to find something to look forward to-not necessarily a long-term plan but something simple, like taking a trip. Something that I have to plan which will allow me to build up excitement in my mind. A trip would be nice, but it is not really in the cards financially now. So what do I want to plan-what is something that I would look forward to doing (that I can afford)? hmm...I'll have to think about that.

The other concern I had was about something I have been processing lately that relates to the internal struggle I have been dealing with, which is the realization that I am getting to a point where my life in no way resembles the life I had with James. And I kind of like it. But at the same time I feel guilty. I told the therapist that his death has enabled me to do things I wouldn't have done if he was still alive that I have enjoyed doing but I feel that by starting to enjoy this new life, I am betraying the one I had with him. I feel like by feeling this way, I didn't love him enough. I told her that I feel like I have been in a tunnel for the last 25 months and 3 days and now I am starting to see bits of light at one end of it, but James is still standing in the dark at the other end. That I want to go towards the light and emerge on the other side, but at the same time, there is a pull to stay in the tunnel with James.

She told me this meant I was healing. And with that healing it is normal to feel a tremendous amount of betrayal and guilt. That at times, almost 15 years after her husband's death, she still has moments where she feels that guilt for moving forward with and rebuilding her life. It is always such a relief to be told I am normal by someone who not only is a trained professional but who has also unfortunately walked this road. And she reminded me this is what James would want for me. I know it is. I know he would want me to be happy again and I want that too. And I will get there. Slowly but surely I will find my way to the light at the end of this tunnel and emerge on the other side.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deja vu and another license plate

(It is really hard to type with a cocker spaniel sitting on my lap, but he doesn't seem willing to budge, so I am going to give it a try. I blame him for any typos).

Deja vu. It's not an uncommon phenomenon and is one with many possible explanations. Someone once told me to experience deja vu meant my life was on track-that I was on the path on which I was supposed to be. I liked that explanation and now whenever I experience deja vu, I am filled with peace that while I don't know where I am headed, at least I am going in the right direction.

I had a moment of deja vu on Tuesday. I was at a birthday dinner for one of the girls in the fun Meetup group. I RSVP'd for it last week when it was posted on the calendar, but I almost backed out at the last minute. Thanks to everything blooming way early, my allergies have been acting up and I didn't feel good. But I realized that at a Mediterranean restaurant, I was likely to get something with chicken (I don't eat lamb) and that would be healthier than anything I fixed for dinner at home.

So I went. I was sitting across from the birthday girl, talking to her and half-listening to the conversations around us when our meals came. She thought mine looked good and asked what it was. I told her it was the chicken shwarma but I got it as a platter instead of a sandwich. She asked what shwarma was. The server had left a couple of menus on our table so I grabbed one so I could just point it out to her on the menu. As I pointed it out, I knew she was going to ask me to read it so I just started to read it. She interrupted me by saying "oh good. You read it. When I put my contacts in, I lose my ability to read up close." As I started reading again, I knew with sudden clarity I had done this before: it was all familiar. The way I was sitting and holding the menu. The way she was leaning in to hear me. The decor of the room-which suddenly seemed brighter. All of it. For a brief moment, I knew exactly what was going to come next. And it did. But I haven't been there before. I had never even heard of it before I saw the event posted on the calendar. It was just "one of those things."

After we finished eating, we were chatting amongst ourselves and I was kind of listening to a conversation at my table about the different neighborhoods in Chicago and a conversation at another table about dating. One of the girls saw I was kind of listening and invited me to their table. She was saying how living in the Midwest the pickings were slim when it came to dating and she'd only been asked out twice since moving here. I related the story of the only time I have been asked on a date since James died-it was 13 months after he died and when I was asked, I came thisclose to throwing up. And not in the good "OMG! The captain of the football team just asked me to prom" sort of way. Needless to say, I didn't go. But every now and then I think "what if for the rest of my life that is the only invitation I ever get?" and wonder if I should reconsider.

I was replaying this as I was driving home. I was on the Banfield and the car suddenly swerved. It does that sometimes on the freeway but this was much more severe than usual. I really had to crank the wheel back to avoid going in the other lane. "You've got to STOP doing that!" I yelled. It really freaks me out when that happens especially since it only happens when I am driving James' car and never when I am driving mine.

And then I thought "Okay. You've got my attention. Maybe I am supposed to notice something." And I glanced over to the car that was passing me in the speedy lane and noticed the license plate read "PROV 31." Really? Again with the Bible verses? Okay, I know I have said (repeatedly) that if I am going to get a sign it needs to be a neon billboard. (Pretty sure the car wasn't a Neon. Do people still drive those?) And I know beggars can't be choosers. But sending someone who always scored very low in reading comprehension Bible verses isn't helpful, although I do understand that it does give me somewhere to look even if I don't get the point.

So when I got home, I looked up Proverbs 31. And then I Googled it to find out what it meant. The woman in Proverbs 31 is the ideal woman. What I got out of it is that she is a strong, capable woman. She is worthy. I am certainly those things, but I still don't get it. As with the other license plates, I feel like I am missing the point. I am just not seeing what I am supposed to get out of this. I now have "Don't Settle," "Wild 4 You," and two Bible verses. What completes this puzzle?

At least I'm on the right path to finding out.


One of my co-workers had a project that needed to be done today. It was not one she could finish herself and she couldn't pull the guys in the warehouse away from what they were doing to work on it. So all of us girls in the office, except one who had to answer the phones, trooped out to the warehouse to help her get it done. Working together, it took us a little over an hour to finish it.

I love that I work for a company in which everyone is willing to do things out of their job descriptions to help each other in a pinch. I have not always had this experience so it is a nice change of pace. It was also a nice change of pace to step away from my desk and do something different for a little while. And since it was so cold in the warehouse for the first time in months my office actually felt warm this afternoon!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The people in my path

On July 4, 2008, I started a Meetup group for young widows and widowers. In November, a widower joined the group. Not long after we met, we started "talking" in a chatroom associated with a website for young widows and widowers. It did not take long for a friendship to form.

Around the same time my widower friend joined our group, he also joined a hiking group. It is an "urban" hiking group, with walks around the Portland area. Once a month, the organizer of the group plans a very easy hike and my widower friend invited me to join him for the easy walk in January 2009. I wasn't sure about this whole hiking business, so I went as a guest of my friend. It was a nice walk around a neighborhood I hadn't explored and I enjoyed it. I ended up going on a more strenuous walk with the group a few weeks later, also as a guest of my friend, and ultimately ended up joining the group.

Not long after I joined, I went on my first hike alone-meaning I didn't have my friend there; I didn't have the comfort of having the one person I knew from the group there with me. It was a night hike-another first for me. I ended up meeting a guy on the hike who seemed nice enough and in one of my "finer" moments, felt the need to tell him my life story. That was in May 2009 and the last time our paths crossed on a hike, but not the last time our paths were meant to cross.

In September 2009, the guy I met on that night hike started the "fun" Meetup group. Nine days after he created it, I was browsing the groups in my area and thought the description of his group was exactly what I was looking for (it was) and I joined the group. I didn't run into him again until we did a volunteer project together at the end of October. I was nervous wondering if he would remember me and was relieved when he saw me and asked if I remembered him.

As I have become more active in this group over the last couple of months, I have met a lot of new people and am getting to the point where I am starting to see some of the same faces again and again. I have also been doing a bit too much and am a bit burnt out at work, so I have been thinking about taking a day off. (I also thought if I had a day off to look forward to, I would be more inclined to actually do my job as I have been totally unmotivated lately). I thought if it was a nice day that I took off, I might see if I could find someone who might be interested in going on a short hike with me.

Since I have a hike in mind, I was looking through the past events on the calendar for the hiking group to see if I could find the information for it. When I pulled it up, I was surprised to see a couple of members of the "fun" group on the list of people who had attended. This got me wondering, so I went back and looked at all the hikes I have done with the hiking group and sure enough, each one of them had at least one member of the "fun" group in the attendee list; people I didn't know from Adam (Eve?) at the time but now see on a regular basis.

I guess these are people who I was meant to meet or our paths wouldn't keep crossing. And it makes me wonder-who else have I already crossed paths with and just don't realize it (yeah, I know) and who else has yet to cross my path?

Another Step Taken

When James and I moved in together, we decided on a "his, hers and ours" approach to finance, which worked very well for us. We each had our own (existing) accounts for personal bills and spending money and we opened a joint account for household expenses, with each of us contributing equally to this account.

When we moved to Arizona, the bank my account was with did not have much of a presence. They were there, but the branches were few and far between, which did not work well for someone who didn't know the area and is directionally challenged, to say the least. So despite being happy with my bank, I decided to switch to one that was more convenient.

When I opened my new account, even though it was MY account, I set it up as a joint account. My reasoning for this was because if anything ever happened to me, I wanted James to be able to access it. He never touched the account; it was just a safeguard I put in place so there was no question about ownership had something happened to me.

I ordered new checks right before James died-they arrived within the first week of his death. I decided I would just leave him on the account so I didn't have to turn around and order new checks when I just got new checks. It's very odd the way your brain works in the early stages of grief. With everything else going on around me, I was concerned about wasting a box of perfectly good checks.

I didn't count on it taking 2 years to use all the checks but I am at the point where I need to order new ones. So I made the decision to take James off the account (some would say "finally," I'm sure. Well, when their spouse dies they can do it the next day).

Saturday morning I stopped at the bank armed with a death certificate. I don't know what I expected, but it was a pretty straightforward process. The account specialist called the main office to see what he needed to do, took a copy of the death certificate, and had me sign a new signature card. And just like that, James no longer exists on my account. Just another aspect of life from which he has been erased.

I did this transaction without emotion. Lack of showers brings early flowers and Saturday I was miserable with allergies (damn birch trees. Seriously, who the heck is off the charts allergic to birch trees of all things? Well, besides me). Thanks to the complete and totally energy drain from the allergies, I didn't have the strength to feel any emotion other than a longing for my bed. Today I just feel numb. I know it's done, that I've taken another healing step, but I don't think it is really going to hit me until I get my new checks with just my name on them.