Monday, December 28, 2015

Surviving the Gauntlet

Short Lived Hopes and Dreams and Wishes - 7 years later she is dead.
My gauntlet has been the holiday season and sometimes I am not at all sure I will survive. It has taken everything I have and I'm so depleted I'm struggling to find the strength to come out the other side alive and somewhat well and functional. Me, a top performer all my life, relegated to the depths of this grief for as long as it takes me to climb out. How do I do that?

My gauntlet is the onslaught of media and commercialism around Christmas and the holiday season. My gauntlet is family that won't let me get off the bus. Each event or gathering is like several sharp slaps across the face after a year of triggers and sharp slaps and I can't participate, I just can't. Not this first holiday season. We put up a magic, perfect, glowing tree, which was lovely and fine. We did not put up the stockings, one for each person, because she's not here. We did not put the nutcrackers on the mantel, one for each person, because our numbers are lopsided now.

The sharp slaps are living in a town where I go into stores to shop where I used to love to shop for and with her. Sometimes I cry when I come out of the store. The sharp slaps are living in a house where every time I go into the hall bathroom I remember the special equipment in the bathtub - the cedar stool, which I covered with a fresh, soft hand towel for her shower every day (gone now, the stool and the towels), and the hosey shower thing my brother installed so she could shower sitting down (we love to use it for washing the pups now).

I rearranged the furniture in the living room after she died so that the soft chair in the corner where she liked to sit would not be so empty. I washed all the floors on my hands and knees. I gave away the beautiful rug and shower curtain in the bathroom and redid it - the new shower curtain has thousands of beautiful butterflies on it and the rug is gorgeous. New towels too, very soft. New poster, based on a happy ending fairy tale.

New shower curtain and rug in the bathroom.
This is what you see when you're sitting on the "throne."
I love to pick out which is my favorite butterfly, and I love the idea of metamorphosis.
Lovely very soft new towels.
Lovely happy ending fairytale poster.
In order to come out of this I have much work still to do. I am halfway through the gauntlet and it is painful.

The gauntlet for the season has been Hallmark movies where each death is replaced by a convenient life - baby, new love, new spouse, new pet, etc. My life has no such infusion. The gauntlet is family insisting on delivering Christmas presents, which obligates me to shop for them, which I cannot do. My relevancy meter is not the same as theirs. It's shot. (Their presents were oh so thoughtful, tons of tealights cause I light one for Jess every night, and other sweet and thoughtful things. A generous gift card to Michael's for art supplies so I can keep doing what makes my heart sing.)

For the other half of my gauntlet, I'm facing things that no one should have to face at this time of year or any other. What I have to do in the next few days before the new year, is yet again put my daughter's things away (storage), which is like putting her away, and SHE MATTERS.

She was here. I looked for her all this summer after she died, but she did not appear.
There was a time when we touched. When I brought her home and gave her showers to make her fluffy clean and silently decried the state of her little body getting skeletal and eaten up by the sickness. I read fairy tales to her in the bathroom while she took her showers when she got strong enough to do it by herself. We didn't even imagine that we would lose her.

She was already dying and I didn't know it.
So how do we climb out of this? How do we get to a place that isn't the dropping shoe and the fear of the other shoe that will drop?

Well, we cry a lot lot lot. Get it out. And I seem to have taken on a case of double pneumonia the day before Thanksgiving that let me off the party bus. I ate a little of the dinner Rob made, cried before it and after it. He said "Do you need a hug?" And I went into his arms and he was kind and patient and loving.

Very slow to recover from this sickness - it was pretty bad. Coughing bright red blood Thanksgiving night. Fluid collecting in my lungs. My sis took me to the walk-in clinic. I think the sick part of me is the ego part that says NO MORE stimulation or input or participation. Just leave me alone to lick my wounds and try to recover. Lots of sleep. Lots of reflection. Lots of medicine, more than I've ever taken in my whole life. I'm leaning hard on those who can help. I have good docs but not much faith in them since she had 13 and didn't make it....

There is a part of me outside of the pneumonia that is fighting in a peaceful way - doing artwork, the only thing besides Rob and the pups that will pull me out of this. I do not know if the artwork is strong enough, or if Rob and the pups wouldn't be better off with wife number 3, whoever she might be. Some of my paintings are inspired by Jess and these events and others are beautiful, and have nothing to do with it, I will be able to pick up the trail of where I was going before I got sideswiped.

I want my son near me, but he's 5,000 miles away and happy in a different culture where he's thriving. I cannot tell him how much I want him and his lovely wife near me. Close enough to feed and hug and visit and talk with and see their beautiful faces and smell them.

So I put my big girl panties on, put on my lipstick, take my pneumonia meds and carry on. I do not know where this is going. I want to turn the corner and feel my old self's determination and capability. Wow, where IS that? I used to be so damn strong.

Well, with the new year I have made a decision to turn the third spare room into a workout room. I'm selling the twin beds I grew up in (the bed Jess slept in while she was here for 4 months recovering), selling the other set of twin beds (beautiful antiques from my Grandmother's home) that furnish the other spare room, and investing in a queen bed so that when/if the kids visit they'll be comfortable. And the workout room will be a place to go to get our little endorphins working for us and a place to build back our physical systems that are completely depleted - a life-sustaining room. I will keep a few things in there from all the kids, but mostly it'll be a room that inspires Rob and me in positive ways.

Twin beds in the spare room, nice cherry canopy beds.
Wish me luck in taking down the spare room where Jess spent time in recovery and in moving forward to making it into a life sustaining place where we can move our bodies and listen to music and do yoga and treadmill and fluidity bar and go when we need to destress. When those beds go out of here I will take a shot of cognac, which I usually save for Christmas, but sometimes it is purely medicinal and this will be one of those times. We had set up that room for the grandchildren of our future, imagining them visiting in summer. Well now they'll just have to sleep all jumbled up in the queen bed in the other spare room.

Wish me luck as I put her things, which are in that spare room, into tupperware tubs carefully labeled for her brother, send me strength to do this with respect and love.

This is a hard corner for us. But we must do it else we may get stuck, and that's not an option.

All prayers are most welcome - this is the second hardest thing I've ever done besides live through the past year.

Thanks for all your blessings and uber prayers, I know they matter, and I know they give us strength.

Here's to a new year that is a clean slate for you, much simpler than ours. Last year, like every other New Year, I was feeling grateful that Jess was home in Portland, working, visiting with her neighbors, and talking with me every night on the phone. One of our last, very sweet conversations on New Year's Eve was when I texted her Happy New Year and said we had just watched the ball drop in New York. She said she felt like she was in a time warp, 3 hours behind in Portland, and she said "I'll catch up Momma." The other sweet text thing I have on the phone, just days before she died is when she taught me how to download the little picture icons and we had a conversation back and forth with a ton of them - she said it was making her laugh. Made me laugh too, and still does xo

She never said she'd been sent home from work with jaundice. She never said she'd fallen outside and an ambulance was called. She never said on January 8th that she signed a paper to turn away yet another ambulance. And on January 9th my life flipped over, and so did hers. I did not expect it. I don't know if she did.

So the end of my gauntlet, coming around the corner of this new year is a mix of memories of where we were at the beginning of last year (in for the shock of our lives) and creating change. Birthing something new. Letting go. Embracing all that is meaningful and moving forward with it.

So here's to stepping into new worlds, building back strength that has been sucked out, and learning to believe again. I keep some things of the children around me, but not everything. Just enough to feel the love.

I will try to stay in my spiritual self as I create this change. I am somewhat excited about it. I pulled one of my little Angel Cards, asking Jess what she thought of the changes and got "Celebration!" I think she approves.

So do I think that on January 10th I will wake up Little Miss Sunshine, breathing deeply and looking forward to what is to come? I just might, God willing. We have made it through the first year, and that is the hardest.

My beautiful son and his gorgeous wife xoxo

We can do hard things, right?


Monday, December 21, 2015

Two Worlds Painting in the Works

I have been working on the Two Worlds painting tonight. The photo above shows me, the mother of the daughter who passed away, surrounded in gray misery but a little light is getting in from my daughter's world from above.

Jess in her new world
She is happy and surrounded by waves of love, taking a moment to send some down to me.

The Two of Us
This shows the two of us, me feeling ego based and missing her, and her in her spiritual self all joyous, trying to send some light down to me.

Beginning to feel the light
I am beginning to feel the light and love but still ego based and trying to sort out how to find comfort in where she is now in relation to where I am.

Jess at Home
She is so happy, surrounded by love and all the things she could ever need or want - her heaven is as large as her imagination for a while. Looks like a pretty good place for her to be. You can see there are still parts of the image for me to finish.

The Two of Us
And here we are. Learning to communicate in new ways. I miss her earthly presence but I celebrate her new world experiences.

In this painting I am using color to communicate mood. And there is lots of detail. Pretty much everything has meaning - will post about that when done.

This painting will be finished soon. I love the winter when I can concentrate on drawing and painting.

Will post the finished painting when done.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Dancing with Destiny and Her Sister Fate painting finished

Dancing with Destiny and Her Sister Fate

As we go through life, I think we have guidance from all kinds of loving sources, including some from the celestial realms. We travel our pathways with the guidance of these wise ones, sometimes not really recognizing them, though they are always available to us.

This painting depicts Destiny and her sister Fate, guiding a little girl through her growing up years. 

Step off the yellow brick road
Destiny teaches her to place herself solidly on a pathway of love and not to be afraid to step off the yellow brick road that may have been prescribed for her by others.

Destiny belongs to the little girl
The little girl will learn that if she dances with her Destiny, they can work together to create a meaningful life that will have a positive influence on others, and will bring pleasure and joy to the little girl. 

Treasures await.
There is a treasure chest sitting beside Destiny of wonderful tools and skills and talents for the little girl to discover. Crow, the bird that represents Cosmic Law, holds the key that will unlock the treasure chest.

Growing adolescent
The little girl has not yet grown into her beautiful self. She is still gangly and feeling awkward. But with the touch of Destiny's hand on her forehead, she will reach her potential.

Destiny's Sister Fate
With help from Destiny's sister, Fate, the little girl will find her way, guided by the music that wafts from Fate's trumpet in waves of love.

Destiny is strong and determined in guiding the pathway of the little girl so that it will be just right for her.

And the little girl is trusting the guidance of Destiny and her sister Fate. The little girl brings Destiny a gift of sunflowers, for we never take without giving back.

Fate knows nothing but love, and when she blows her trumpet, waves of music surround the little girl and guide her in her dance with Destiny.

The Journey
Altogether we have a journey guided by Destiny and Fate, which, when taken with feet planted solidly on the pathway of love, leads to a life of pleasure, joy, gifts of love, and celebration.

That is what this painting is about.