Archive for the ‘Widowhood’ category

Simple. Mindful.

9 August, 2013

For the past several months I have been practicing mindful meditation throughout my day. At first I would pick one or two activities or blocks of time to be directly in that very moment, whatever it was that I was doing. I could be eating alone or doing dishes or running errands or being with my son – it was all done while keeping the mind focused on what was happening that very moment.

Soon this was something that I did throughout my day, not just blocking time or activities but the whole day. At first, I was a bit hesitant in some moments, such as paying bills, for fear that the thoughts of the future or guilt over something past (did I save enough, why did I spend that much on that stupid thing?) would come to mind. I actually was late in paying bills because I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it…Once I decided that those thoughts were like any others within a meditation practice – they just pop in and then you regain your focus in the now and let them float away with no attachment.

After three plus months of practicing this and slowly integrating it into my every-day activities, I had a true test of being mindful during a week that Lido wasn’t in school and I was also not in school. I hadn’t planned anything for us for that week and I didn’t want to. I just wanted to wake up each morning and see where life took us. I wanted to just focus on the two of us and I really wanted to put mindfulness into practice every moment of our day.

What an amazing week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It truly changed so much for the both of us. So much so that a little less than two weeks later, our cable box was dropped back off to the cable company and we have had limited TV and movies for the past two weeks. This has also started me on finishing projects that I have started as well as organizing the house in order to finish some of those projects. The house is beginning to really come together and I can pretty much walk into every room without tripping on something that needs to be put away.

With mindfulness has come simplification.

Mindfulness allows us to sift through things and take the time to put the cell phone down, turn the tv off and really open our eyes to what is happening right around us. We see so much more. To truly practice mindfulness is to recognize what is important in our life and to understand and let go of the unimportant things in life.

The most wonderful things I have seen is how my son is just full of love and warmth and happiness. He is such a kind and gentle soul. He is so much like his Dad when it comes to knowing what is on my mind before I know it…

I have seen him build cities and railroad tracks running over bridges. I have heard him playing make-believe and cuddling with his animals. I have seen him take our little cat in his arms and just gently hug her and talk to her and kiss her. Just last night, even though it was past his bedtime, we sat and played ‘vet’ for over an hour with his stuffed animals. He didn’t go to bed until 9pm…and if I hadn’t been mindful during our bedtime routine (not that we have much of a routine), I wouldn’t have taken part in this wonderful moment because I would not have seen how important it was to him. I would have been worrying about the future – I have to study, I have to do dishes, I have to, I have to, I have to.

Instead, this moment was all I needed to be within. The present.

I just had an instructor give me some feedback on one of my client sessions and within her comments she said “the ‘now’ is where creativity takes place. It is where we find our answers. It is where things start. We can not change the past, we can not know how the future will play out exactly. This is why we must remind ourselves to be in the ‘now'”.

Being mindful – I do not worry as much as I used to. I am simplifying our life in little ways and in big ways. The ‘chatter’ that comes with any type of meditation has slowly softened and as I am mindful, I am able to make decisions with a clearer head and also look at what I truly want in my life, what I want to do with my life and where I want to go with my life.

It is a truly wonderful moment when you understand how to live in the moment while moving forward.

I urge you to add this to your day and see the difference in your life. Take one activity – don’t start with being mindful with your kids or spouse – take an activity where you are mindful in something you are doing. As you are eating, washing the dishes, reading a book – be mindful. What are the sensations. What does the food taste like, what does the water feel like, what do the pages of the book sound like when you turn a page? Once you have done this, see how you feel…calmer? Relaxed? Ready to face the rest of the day? Then, start to slowly work on being mindful in conversations you are having – be present in that moment – really truly present. When was the last time you sat across from someone and really listened to them? Looked them in the eyes and got lost in the conversation? Try it. Try it with a friend. Try it with your spouse. Try it with your child.

It really is amazing.

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9 December, 2012

I sat in a parking lot of a church Saturday night and cried.

I cried for a life cut short. I cried for his fiance and his family. I cried for myself. I cried for him. I cried for Doug.

But the one thing I cried most about, the one thing I couldn’t catch my breath because of, was this overwhelming feeling of being exactly where I needed to be…and being incredibly thankful for what has happened in my life. The tragedy, the friendships, the professions, the conversations, the beliefs, the arguments, the fleeting thoughts, the circumstances, the laughter, the love, the hate, the peace, the lessons…all of it.

I cried because as I was talking to the Mother of this pilot, she asked me “what does Doug say to you?”

I couldn’t answer it. I wanted to share with her something profound. Something that could possibly take part of her pain away. Something that could give her hope. Instead, I turned it onto her and asked her what her son says to her.

*************************************

As I sat alone crying, I became completely overwhelmed as it seemed like all of these life events started flashing before me…something that I had always imagined that happens in death. Instead, it was happening there, as I sat crying, in a car, in the dark.

I was overwhelmed because if it were not for one of these events happening, one of the lessons I needed to learn being taught, one of the people not being a part of my life when they needed to be – if it wasn’t for all of this – if it wasn’t for all of this…it’s overwhelming.

Doug was talking to me. He was letting me know that it was okay that there will not be answers for me. He was reminding me of all of the things that have led me to this moment. He was showing me, that through the events in my life and the events in his life, that this was our purpose. That each moment was unique in that it gave both of us opportunities to make an impact in other people’s lives where we could. That everything is truly connected…and dare I say it…that everything may indeed happen for a reason*.

I’ve never felt more thankful in my life than last night. I am thankful for every single thing that has ever happened in my life. I embrace all of it with open loving arms because if it wasn’t for all of it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see so many beautiful things. Be a part of someone’s life in their darkest hour or bask in the light of their finest moment.

I was especially thankful for this Mom, asking me a question that pulled the veil from across my face.

******************************************************************************

*When death occurs, so many people say ‘everything happens for a reason’. I believed this for so long. Then I didn’t. Even though I say it today, I have struggled with believing this is indeed true since the day Doug died. Saying this today does not mean I embrace this thought fully. I say this today because I see the connections, the web of life. However, just taking this small step of believing this for today does not mean, DOES NOT MEAN, that it is ever the best thing to say to someone when they have just lost their world. Unless you know the reason – it’s best to keep this statement to yourself.

45 Months…

17 June, 2012

My Dearest Lido,

Today you are 3 years and 9 months old. I’ve been thinking a lot about your upcoming birthday and how I can not imagine that you will be turning 4. It’s reality but I’m just not believing it…

Lately, you are just growing leaps and bounds. You love to count, love to sing your ABCs. Every morning you get your breakfast and sit at your little table in the living room to eat and color or look out the window to see if people are out walking their dogs. You love to be home. Although, you are going to school 3 days a week for their summer program and love it. You get pretty excited and are really coming into your own there. You are still quite shy but at school – as long as their are not huge crowds of people – you go skipping out to play with your friends. You are making more friends and I see that you are playing with the other kids more and more. You have had your bestie all year but you look forward to seeing a couple of the other kids as well and playing with them. I’m glad to see that.

You still amaze me at the things that you remember. You catch me off-guard quite a lot by bringing up something that happened a year ago or even two years. Sometimes it is quite the task trying to get my brain to remember what you are talking about…mainly because I’m thinking that what your thinking about is not so much in the really distant past. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that you bring up obscure little details from such a long time ago. It’s really mind boggling.

Today is Father’s Day. Unlike your Dad’s birthday, I didn’t try to push anything on you – no specific activity like flying kites to remember him by nor did I make it a really huge deal. Learned my lesson on that one. Instead, we talked about it a few times this week and last night you wanted me to tell you a story about your Dad. Today, we had breakfast with Uncle Drew and Aunt Toria then you and I went to a fun Lego place…well, it really wasn’t that fun. You really were not that thrilled with the initial ride – very dark and VERY loud…you got into the ‘video game’ aspect of that ride but you’ve told me several times since, that it really scared you. We had to go back to the miniature city several times so that you could take a look and see absolutely everything there…you were not very interested in playing in the little gym/blowup thing they had nor were you interested in building anything while there. So, essentially they certainly got a lot more money out of me that what it was worth but you had fun looking at the miniature city so it was well worth it. I’m sure you’ll be bringing up obscure things you saw that I had no idea were there – so yes, well worth it.

I could tell you were missing your Dad this week. I’m sure that part of it was hearing “Father’s Day” on the radio, at school, on TV, etc., and you told me during the middle of the week on our way to school that you were going to tell your friend that your Dad died. I wasn’t quite sure what to say to you because you said it with such conviction and in a way that you wanted them to know ‘this is me – this is part of who I am’…at least that is the feeling I got. You just said it in such a grown-up way – you wanted them to know. You wanted to share.

You amaze me.

I’ve decided on a cemetery where we will have some of your Dad’s ashes and when I die, a part of my ashes will be there beside his. It’s a lovely cemetery. Relaxing, reflective, meditative. I took a drive there the other morning after dropping you off at school to take a look at the areas where they had plots open. I walked through one particular area that I’ve fallen in love with and happened on a marker with a lovely poem that was written by a woman whose husband had it scripted on a stone slab when she died. It was signed by him – ‘for my beloved’. It was just simply lovely. You could feel and sense the connection they had. I’d like to have our plots near to there…it has a good feel.

On days like today, I hope that by having something like this, it will allow you a little reflection and a place to go to talk to him. Sometimes, we just need a place to be. Away from everything else. I don’t expect you to want to go all the time and you may find that during part of your life it is not a place you want to go to…just remember, you will know your Dad through me and you will know him through yourself. He loved you so dearly and wanted to be and loved to be a Dad – your Dad. I still struggle every day trying to understand why all of this happened. I know I am learning so much about myself and about life and people that through his death, I will be a better person. Then, the main question becomes – why did this happen to you. Why were you meant to go through life without your Dad? This is the question that breaks my heart. I try not to ‘go there’ too much and I try not to wonder what our life would be like if he was still here.

I just miss him terribly. I will always miss him. I will always love him as I will always love you. You, my child, are a wonderful gift that he gave to me and he is a part of you always. I believe he watches you and looks after you and man, you have so many of his mannerisms and expressions. Some that are quite subtle and in order to see you have to be present in the moment. They jump out at you with a kind familiarity. It warms my heart.

I love you my bug.

In this life and the next.

Your Momom

I know what to do

4 June, 2012

Doug always told me that I would know what to do with his ashes if he ever died. We didn’t discuss it much further than that. We never planned or thought about a cemetery plot for the both of us or anything of that nature. It was always, ‘you’ll know what to do’.

Then when that decision had to be made, I had no idea what to do. At first, in the shock of it all and thinking of only others, I thought that I would distribute a little bit of his ashes to his friends so they could do what they thought he’d like – make it personal for them. Let them share in this decision.

Time went by and there he sat…his ashes in a black plastic box in my nightstand. It took a while for him to migrate there. At the very beginning he still laid in bed with me at night. His flight suit folded up next to me on the pillow, his hat on top of that, an old t-shirt I hadn’t washed with his scent still lingering and him. Half on the pillow and half on the bed.

Then at two years I knew I was ready to release some of his ashes. I was heading to Montana and Yellowstone again and that place, of course, held so much meaning for us. Driving up through Bear Tooth Pass on my birthday was when I released half of the small tupperware container I had a portion of his ashes in. The next day, the two year mark, I released some more inside the park into this gorgeous stream that I have always loved.

After that, I had no idea what to do with the rest of the ashes…and there is a lot…

I still want to take a trip to Ireland. A trip that he and I were planning to take before he died. I’ll save some for that. But I just had no idea what to do…I haven’t felt at peace with any of this for quite a while now.

For the past week I’ve been thinking about a friend of mine from middle school and high school, Nicki Smith. She died September 12, 1993 in a motorcycle accident. She and I were not best friends but she and I always had this great connection. We went to separate high schools and saw each other each summer when I was in volleyball camp and she was helping out her mom with some teacher in-service happening at my high school. During water breaks and lunch break I would find her sitting in the hallway right outside the gym waiting for me so we could frantically catch up. The first time we saw each other was always the best because it included this bear hug from her and one of the best smiles you’ve ever seen.

This was our friendship. Always thinking of each other and always so glad to run into each other as time just stood still for us…

I came home late one night after a volleyball game. It was my freshman year of college. We had this piano in the living room at the time and on it sat a newspaper with her picture on the front page. I smiled so big wondering what kind of accolades she was receiving or what she had accomplished – she was a great softball player and was also playing in college.

I flipped the newspaper over and read that she was killed in an accident. She was 18.

I remember screaming.

I didn’t go to her funeral. I can’t remember why exactly. I think it was because I had missed it, not knowing that she had died. I’m really not sure.

I often, quite often, think about her. I remember the night Doug died I asked her to make sure he was taken care of and to get to know him because he would love her. Her laugh, her smile and her hugs. I remember calling on her many times in my life, to give me advice, to make me feel better, to make me laugh during tough times…I’ve always kept her a part of my life. I think of her as one of my guardian angels. Because how could she not be an angel?

Today, almost 19 years later, was the first time I have been to her grave. I had to ask an old coach of mine where she was buried…as I turned into the cemetery I got out my phone to look up the plot. I had the phone in my hand and turned the car onto another road and pulled over to stop and there she was…right next to me. A picture of her in her softball uniform, short red hair and great smile, looking at me.

I had cut some fresh flowers for her from my garden and wrote her a letter. I sat in front of her headstone on the hard dirt and grass. I laid the flowers on the ground and put the letter there next to them. I didn’t stay for very long. Just long enough to tell her I missed her and I thought about her often. As I sat there, I all of a sudden knew what to do with the rest (or most of the rest) of Doug’s ashes.

I don’t know that I’ve really thought about graves much. They were just there to bury the dead and nothing more but after visiting Nicki and her grave, I felt so much at peace and I felt that I had a place to go now to talk to her. A place where I could see her picture, her forever youth and update her on the things of the living. It was so peaceful to sit there and talk to her, even in the scorching sun. It was nice to be able to write to her, to bring her flowers, to remember her and to see something physical there that would be there for hundreds of years to say that this person was loved, had lived. It was a place for friends and family to pay their respects year after year, season after season. I really can not put into words my new outlook on graves. I think that we, as the living, need these places of peace.

Maybe it is an act of closure (even though I hate that word)…who knows. All I know in my heart right now is that I think this is also what Doug would have wanted….just not all of him. I will keep a portion of him and I may even still give a part of him to his friends so that he may be scattered or kept with them. I do think though that it may be quite healing for all of us if we had a place to go to, to talk to him, to cry, to laugh…to eventually be at peace. I think the act of placing flowers or pictures or letters or even just tears or laughter into the wind is something we as the living need to do. Be it ceremonious or meditative. Part of it is also knowing that his name, his life, will forever be recorded in stone.

Now to figure out where…

…and after the where is figured out, you can bet that I will also have a place beside him for when it comes my time to leave this life.

Thank you Nicki for helping me once again…you, indeed, are an angel.

Growth Spurt

16 April, 2012

My dearest child,

Again, it’s been a while and my how you have changed. You are taller, more talkative, a tiny bit more outgoing (it takes a bit less than 30 minutes for you to warm up to strangers), more imaginative and still observant as ever.

This journey with you over the past 2.5 years without your Dad has been just that, a journey. You constantly amaze me & you are wise beyond your 3.5 years…

There have been a few instances as of late, where I know you’ve been working things through and understanding more and more about your Dad. It hurts to see you go through it, especially when I think I am communicating with you in a way that you understand and then it completely flops…

This year for your Dad’s birthday, I thought you were old enough that we could celebrate it together and plan a day out have a great brunch, flying kites and getting a couple cupcakes. I told you the plan and that it was your Dad’s birthday so we were going to do something fun to celebrate his life. You were excited and told anyone you could that it was your Dad’s birthday.

Well, brunch was good. The rest of the day…not so much. It took me forever to get the kite together and it was frickin’ hot outside and there was just enough wind and you were a big help to a great extent but when it came down to getting that kite up into the fucking air…it hit me – not the kite – but the fact that some things in life are just easier when you have someone beside you, helping you. That I, not that I do this, can not expect you to step up, pick up the kite and make it fly. In those few short minutes of trying to get the kite to fly, it all just came crashing down on me. I’m tired of doing this alone and he should have been there at the other end of that fucking kite. Helping me. Showing you what to do.

Easter was the next week and as we were setting the table for brunch, you came to me and pointed to the end of the table and said ‘that’s where my Dad is going to sit, right?’ I just stood there. I had no idea what to say. In split second thinking I reeled over everything that I had said to you lately, conversations we had had within the past week, month, year to figure out why you would think that your Dad would be sitting down with us…Then, I just picked you up, went to the living room, sat you on my lap and told you that he couldn’t sit at the table with us. That he could only watch us from the sky and heaven…It really was the first time I’ve had to think about explaining death to you. I don’t know if celebrating your Dad’s birthday confused you in some way – I’m assuming it did – but after I said what I did, you looked at me and told me you wanted to go and play. I could see your mind turning all of this over & knew that yes, you would be okay and sometimes the only thing I’ll be able to do is just give you a great big hug, a kiss and tell you that I love you. Because, damn it, sometimes there can be no explanation, no words.

And you do amaze me. You see so much in this world and I hope you never lose that. I love you and we are doing good kid. We both have our moments but we are doing good. We celebrate your Dad’s life everyday by living ours to the fullest & opening up our hearts and head to the bigger picture. He taught me so much, gave me so much and loved both of us so much. Through his life & his death, he has opened up a whole world to us, a way to live life, to love, to laugh…to embrace it all as he did.

On a final note, you my child, make me laugh. Your imagination and humor, just amazing.

I’ll always love you.

This life and the next,

Your Momom

 

Funny face at home…

 

Having fun in Munich with some dear friends…

 

Running in Paris…

 

Self portrait (we do a lot of these) in Salzburg during our carriage ride…

Oh so long…

6 March, 2012

My Dearest Child,

Again…I’ve mastered not writing your monthly letter consistently as of late. I really do promise, as stated before, I’ll be better at it…because, after all, I want you to be able to look back and read about your life, our life.

Friends. You have a best friend at school and the two of you definitely make the teachers smile. The two of you do so much together and it is fun to hear about the ‘dinosaur egg’s (rocks) that are in the school playground and how you play dinosaurs at recess. This is one of the best parts about this age – the imagination really comes out and I love to embrace it all!  You also have another little friend that has been over the house a few times and the two of you run around like mad, playing, talking, pretending…and the both of you are just really nice kids. You both help each other out at different times and you guys just play on your own and have soooo much fun. It’s drama when either of you have to leave, that’s for sure, so goodbyes between the mom’s happens typically via text the next day!

We are coming up on spring break and I am looking forward to a week with you around daily. The weather is shaping up to be really nice and I hope we can do many things outdoors. I’m trying to work on letting you just be a kid – or more specifically – a messy, get dirty, roll in mud and dirt kind of kid. Your at the age where I can let you explore more and more so next week, that is exactly what we will do. Explore all kinds of things!

The other major thing we are working on is changing our food intake. We are fairly healthy eaters but we certainly have our fare share of processed foods. All of that is about to change. It is a challenge and we will work on it slowly and I think it will be more painful for me than it will be for you. You have always been the fruit and veggie kid and you typically just go with the flow anyway. This is a good thing for both of us!

You continue to amaze me and as I sit here, the one thing that stands out is how nice you are with your friends and other kids. You are a very caring little boy and you definitely love having other kids over to the house, although we don’t do this often enough. It is interesting to see how you work through things at school with other kids, if they say something that is not so nice to you or to someone else. You typically bring it up to me at some point in a ‘this kid said that to another kid’ and I can tell when you know that whatever they said wasn’t quite nice and you didn’t like how one the one kid treated the other. Usually, the discussion is very brief because I think that the most you want is some reassurance that you can tell the other kid to stop saying mean things to the other kids – or even you. There was a time when a couple kids were not being very nice to you and we had several discussions about what you could do to stop them from saying mean things. Essentially, it was my opportunity to help you find your voice and to be assertive when mean things were said. After I told you that it was okay to tell them to stop being mean and to tell them that what they were doing wasn’t nice – you did it. Your teachers even commented on the fact that you were being a bit more assertive in the classroom and out on the playground. Now, I think you are learning how to stand up for other kids…and I love that about you. It reminds me so much of your Dad. Stand up for those around you and if need be – tell others to bugger off!

In one of the last parent/teacher conferences, your teachers told me about a moment when you were with your classmates (and I may have already posted about this…) and out of the blue you said that your Daddy died. The other kids got quiet and asked you if your Mommy died too. You said ‘no, just my Dad.’ Then you all went back to playing.

Wow.

To me, I see this as you feeling comfortable enough with your classmates to share something that you may understand much better than they do…and part of you processing the whole situation. I’m still so proud of you about this moment.

I’ve been thinking about getting you a bike – a real bike – but I just haven’t quite made the leap yet. When I think about it, I start crying as this is one memory of your Dad that I will never forget. Him coming into the living room one evening, looking at me and saying “I just got one of those ‘Dad’ moments, you know where you just think how cool all of this is and that I’m really a Dad. I can’t wait to teach him to ride a bike.” It’s just another milestone that I can’t ignore and one that he won’t be a part of and my heart just keeps breaking. Actually, I’m not sure if there is much more to break…but I have to gear up for this. Maybe this will be the summer of the ‘bike’!

I love you my sweet child. I’m so proud of you. You really are just an amazing little guy.

In this life and the next,

Your Momom

obstacles

3 November, 2011

Long time, no post.

There has been so much to say, so much going on, so many thoughts…

So Much.

Just when I think that the roller-coaster of emotions has entered a level track, I get hit again. Some of the hits have taught me things about individuals and people in general. Other hits have taught me more and more about myself, both good things and the things I need to work on. And then there are the hits that take their time to show how much pain they can inflict as well as the hits that will always be there – every event, birthday, etc.

A dear friend and I got into a conversation a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling completely down and at a loss as to why I was still here. So much hurt and loneliness had been creeping in for the past several months and the airplane crash in August really sent me spiraling down – slowly – but still down. Then came the 2 year anniversary of Doug’s death, spreading his ashes, then my Uncle passing the same day as Doug did, completely losing it with a family member who doesn’t speak about nor has any pictures of Doug and I up in their house any longer after they started lecturing me on how to behave with my newly widowed Aunt…So much started making me feel that there was absolutely no purpose for me being here. Everywhere I turned, I was alone. Everywhere in my life – some kind of shit was happening. I was trying so hard, working so hard to get past all of it. To let go of so much. Let go of so much anger, hatred, hurt, sadness…all of it. I was trying and each time I felt better, something else would happen. My friend and I discussed all of this. We both cried and I reassured her that no – I wasn’t going anywhere but I did just question why the hell I was here. What purpose do I have? What am I supposed to learn?

Shortly after that conversation, I picked up one of Doug’s Buddhism books. I had read it before and glancing through some of the pages motivated me to purchase others. In one particular book, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, he writes:

“On the night on which he was to attain enlightenment, the Buddha sat under a tree. While he was sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara. The story goes that they shot swords and arrow at him, and that their weapons turned into flowers. What does this story mean? My understanding of it is that what we habitually regard as obstacles are not really our enemies, but rather our friends. What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower. Whether we experience what happens to us as obstacle and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality. It depends on our relationship with ourselves.”

Anyone that has ever known me knows that I truly believe that we learn from whatever is in front of us – good or bad. I know that in my 20’s I had a great many obstacles in front of me that I learned from, let go and accepted the teachings. Essentially, I did turn the arrows and swords into flowers (to a degree – I’m no Buddha). The moment I did this and gained a sort of ‘enlightenment’ is when I met Doug. He was like no other person I had been with. He was what I had asked the Universe for. He was what I needed in order to learn even more. The moment I learned my lessons and moved beyond those that were hurtful, deceitful, conniving, selfish – was the moment a huge world opened up. It wasn’t just Doug that I met. I soon met people who would become close, wonderful and dear friends. I still had lessons to learn and in that period of my life, some I learned more quickly than others.

I find it interesting to look at this passage as a widow. So many of the obstacles that we (widows and widowers) face are the obstacles of human nature itself. The obstacles are the realizations that our perceptions and especially our expectations are just that – ours. There is no substance behind so much of it. We learn that we can not have high expectations for so many – it’s just not in their fiber. And from that, we must learn that this is all okay. Because, as the author states, we are shown where we are stuck. Maybe it is a toxic friendship that has always been toxic. Or maybe it is a friendship that we have always expected more out of but have never received and now we have the chance to just take it for what it is – take it with loving arms and open arms still giving what we can and learning not to expect anything in return. Widows and widowers can definitely get stuck. I hear stories of the same things happening over and over and over again in other widows/ers lives and it never seems to involve the same people. This is where we must take a look and see where we are stuck – what are we supposed to learn. What changes do we need to make.

Obstacles will always be in front of us. The obstacles will never go away until it has taught us what we need to know. It will return with ‘new names, forms, and manifestations until we learn whatever it has to teach us about where we are separating ourselves from reality, how we are pulling back instead of opening up, closing down instead of allowing ourselves to experience fully whatever we encounter, without hesitating or retreating into ourselves.’ After first reading this portion of the book, I found myself quite angry…something that probably was not intended by the author. I wanted to write him a letter and ask him ‘what about wrong-doing? what about the wrongs committed against me? The death of my husband, friends who have completely dropped off the face of the earth, people who I have felt betrayed by, situations where I feel I have absolutely no voice. What about those?’

And then it dawned on me…no voice. In all of these situations, I have felt that I have had no voice – or at least one that was heard. I had no voice in the death of my husband, no voice with friends that have walked away and certainly no voice that was heard by those that have betrayed or those surrounding them. I realized that all of these situations, these people, the universe would never hear me because I was not connected to my “basic wisdom mind”.

“Traditional teachings on the forces of Mara describe the nature of obstacles and the nature of how human beings habitually become confused and lose confidence in our basic wisdom mind. The maras provide descriptions of some very familiar ways in which we try to avoid what is happening.

There are four maras. Devaputra Mara involves seeking pleasure. When we are in a situation where we feel embarrassed or awkward, when pain presents itself to us in any form, we run from it in order to try to feel comfortable once again. Our bubble of reality that we once that was secure and certain has been popped. Having this happen to us, we don’t want to feel the pain nor the anxiety or the queasiness in our stomach or the anger rising within us or the taste of resentment. We seek pleasure to avoid the pain. When pain arises we want it gone. We may reach out to drugs or alcohol or watch TV in order to numb the mind and therefore the pain. We try to escape from the “more awkward, unpleasant, and penetrating aspects of being alive”.  Instead of changing all of this into a flower – we run. And this is where we have the ability to change all of this into a flower. By observing what it is that we do when we have pain, opening our hearts and taking a look at how we escape. We are able to look at our weakness and see it as a source of wisdom and that this is a way to connect to our basic wisdom mind.

This first mara is one that I must still re-read and remind myself of constantly.

Skandha mara is how we react when the rug is pulled out from under us. Ahh…yes, I know this one quite well. Our world gets shattered. We have no idea what will happen next or where we are and then we recreate ourselves. We try to go immediately back to a very solid ground of our self-concept. By doing this, recreating ourselves, we do not trust in our basic wisdom mind enough to say ‘let me stay right here and not be on that solid ground’. Touching into the mind of simply not knowing – basic wisdom mind. Touching into this gives us an opportunity to be inquisitive – what will happen next? Who will I become?

Klesha mara is emotion – strong emotion. “When everything falls apart and we feel uncertainty, disappointment, shock, embarrassment, what’s left is a mind that is clear, unbiased, and fresh. But we don’t see that. We use our emotions. We USE them. In their essence, they are simply a part of the goodness of being alive, but instead of letting them be, we take them and use them to regain our ground. We use them to try to make everything secure and predictable and real again, to fool ourselves about what’s really true. There’s no particular need to spread blame and self-justification.” This, once again, does not need to be viewed as an obstacle but as a time when we can take a real look and see the wildness of emotion and when we do this then we can begin to befriend and soften toward ourselves, we develop true compassion for ourselves and everyone else.  This one is harder for me to put into practice and fully envelope and then once I struggle with it, I’m reminded of skandha mara…oh the circling one does for enlightenment.

Yama mara – fear of death. This is an interesting one…Essentially, so much of what we strive for is to get to a point where we feel we’ve finally gotten it together. We have it all. We strive for perfection and security. If we run enough, meditate enough, eat the right food everything will be perfect. When we become seekers of security or perfection, happy in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable – this is death – to someone who is awake. ‘Living’ like this does not allow for something to come in and interrupt all of this. Controlling our experience of life sets us up for failure when an experience that we can not control comes into our life. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. This is life. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together. With this, yama mara is actually the fear of life. I’m definitely the one who likes the control and it is quite interesting that the moments that I feel I have finally ‘gotten it together’ over the past 2 years is exactly when things fall apart. I struggled with this before I met Doug and I struggle with it once again.

It is quite interesting that when I was with him, I never did struggle with it – when I did have everything. In our life together though, we lived. We did not try to control or strive for perfection – we lived. And as I sit and think about all of that it has dawned on me that this aspect of our life together has given me strength to continue after his death. That when the biggest rug of all was pulled from beneath me, I allowed myself to feel every single emotion and understood that I was running from pain and I knew my reactions and emotions. I let go of any self-concept and it felt natural to not cling to who I was before.

It is only in the past year that I have fallen back into needing control, striving for perfection, wanting to feel confirmed and whole, used emotions and ran from pain. I’ve had more obstacles…and so many are obstacles that I have faced before. The ‘before Doug’ life…

It makes me ponder…

I was enlightened with Doug and even more so through his death. I was more alive with him and through the first year of his death than I am now. Was he sent to me because he knew how to live life? Was he taken from me because he was ready to move to the next level of enlightenment? Was his death really for a reason?

I’m not sure. For a second there…but alas, there will be no major items of enlightenment for me tonight…well, maybe just a couple.

One, I am grateful to and for all of those that have stood by me, listened to me, cried with me, pissed me off, still stood by me when I pissed you off, reached out with true compassion and love. I am grateful for those friends and family. I’m also so very grateful for those that have come back into my life. Friendships that were renewed from days long ago. Friendships that are blossoming from being aquiantences. Friendships that are just starting. I see how much you have given to me and how compassionate and loving you are to all of those around you and I thank you again for allowing me to struggle with the obstacles in front of me but never faltering in your support or love for me. And thank you for your willingness to listen – listen even though you’d like to scream at me to wake the fuck up and see those in front of me who truly do care and who will always be family. I have much to learn…

Obstacles, watch out. I think I just might have learned some lessons…and I say that not knowing myself, allowing all emotions to just be and without need of confirmation.

Namaste.