Miles and Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Miles and Miles to Go Before I Sleep.

Miles and Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Tomorrow is part of my journey. Running has always been a solitary pursuit and it has always been a happy place for me. When everything else in my life was wrong somehow, running was the constant. If I could lace up my running shoes and get out the door for even a few minutes, there was hope. The sparks of sunshine and joy reset my batteries.

After Phil was killed, I couldn’t see that there would ever be a day when I could feel happy or normal again. While there are still days I wonder about my life and normalcy, I have found my footing. While the mile loom large and while I know that the pain will surely come at some point, I can see beyond that pain to a bigger picture. If I can stay the course and breathe through one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one mile, one marathon at a time, surely I can find the good in the pain and effort to grit my teeth and push on when everything in me wants to quit.

Running this race with other people honoring the lives given in the ultimate sacrifice will tie me to others fighting to find meaning and their footing again. I run on and on for me, for the memories I carry, and to work through the tears and fears of my heart. It has been a long, cold winter both figuratively and literally that has crept into every crevice of my being, but I see the light in the miles ahead. As Dylan Thomas says, “I have miles and miles to go before I sleep.”

Being Right or Doing the Right Thing?

Being Right or Doing the Right Thing?.

Being Right or Doing the Right Thing?

To say that I have been in a royal funk all week would be an understatement. I attributed my malaise to having to run indoors and the 100 plus inches of snow that the Boston area has had in the past few weeks, but today I realized it is something more than meets the eye. My dad’s birthday is this week and the anniversary of his death is 5 March. His loss, coupled with Phil’s loss, took out the men I turned to and needed in my life. People know how Phil and I stood together as one, but with my dad it wasn’t so simple.

For many, many years, most years, my father and I had a relationship where we couldn’t find a common ground. I took everything he said personally and we fought over faith, choices, and I felt we were just too different to have a deep connection. My father was a bit of a hot head and I retreated versus working to find a place we could meet. It wasn’t until Phil died that my father and I found what I had needed and given up on. We became friends in my darkest hour because the roles were reversed. It simply broke his heart that he couldn’t fix the hurts in his daughter.

My father was never the same after Phil’s death. He was softer and he was more demonstrative. He talked and he listened to me. He never once pushed back when our opinions differed. Sure, he voiced his thoughts, but the raw vulnerability of my shattered heart, my father’s grief at not only having lost Phil, but watching his daughter broken and knowing there was nothing he could do to fix the pain, brought us both to a place where we began to appreciate and value the time and relationship we had together. I wish I hadn’t waited 49 years to try to find the man my father was because he was always there, but like my dad, I am stubborn.

The last summer I spent with my parents, I pushed my dad to go for his check up only because his back hurt so much and he was unable to go fishing, boating, or work in the garden the way he liked to. I never expected a terminal diagnosis at Christmas and a death by 5 March. I thought that I would have more time to turn to my dad for advice. I thought that there would be more time for him to teach me and show me the things I shunned for so many years. I waited too long. While I am thankful that Phil’s death gave me the dad I wanted and it gave him the daughter he needed, I look back and wonder why we couldn’t have come to that place before death put us there. It was that simple. I valued my father versus making a stand. I was entitled to my opinions just as he was, but by withdrawing I missed far too many years.

As I remember what would have been my dad’s 74th birthday on Tuesday the 24th and I mark the second year of his death on 5 March, I stand having learned that people matter more than being right. I stand a better version of my old self for I forgive easier and I make more of an effort with the people I love now. Having said that, I blew it at the end to be the daughter I wanted to be. I shut down on every front when dad got sick. It was a little more than one year after Phil was killed and the unexpected terminal diagnosis came during Christmas week—one of my hardest weeks. I had just moved to MA and I had a job that was unforgiving at the time. I should have done better, should have chosen my dad more often, and I should have given my heart more. I just couldn’t, but somehow I know that my dad knew and loved me any way because in the end he knew his daughter.

218476_10150599606245111_5878830_o

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever.

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever

I am too young to be alone.  At 53, all I have known is being married and having children at home.  I never expected that the year my last child left the house my husband of 23 years would deploy and not come home.  Through the many military moves, my Phil and I drew closer and closer until our circle of support was the two of us and our children.  I expected my children to grow up and leave the house, but never once on this deployment did I worry about his safety.  Sure, the year was a nuisance, but I could be lonely and waiting for a year.  What happens when he didn’t come home?

It has been almost four years since Phil’s death and the loneliness that was once masked by the body aching grief and shock I felt initially is multiplying.  Everywhere I turn, I am alone.  Even in work, I am largely in a solitary office.  I run alone, I live alone, and I travel alone.  When I travel, the hardest part is the airport.  There are so many happy reunions and families traveling together that it literally reminds me of all that is gone.  My dream of growing old and sitting on a porch watching our grandchildren in WA state evaporated into a mirage of nothingness when one man decided that Phil’s life didn’t matter.  We had put off vacations together, dreamt of grandchildren, and eagerly awaited out next and last assignment before returning to the United States Air Force Academy to finish a career that we had walked together. I didn’t prepare for any deviations and nobody prepared me for the ache of loneliness, the ache of wanting, and the silence that echoes off of the walls as the screams and laughter of five children once resounded.

Just as I once felt that the loud chaos of having many children would never end, this is twenty times worse.  Instead of having the chaos to fill my hours, I have time and resources where I want to do things with someone.  I once relished quiet, but I find myself yearning for someone to laugh with, experience life with, and a new dream of growing old.  While it is far too soon to know if there will be a chapter two, I do know that Phil recognized that I would grow lonely.  In our last face to face conversation, we had the what if talk.  I wanted nothing to do with it until he stopped me with one simple question, “Would you want me to be happy again if you died first?”  Why yes, yes I would.  That is what he wanted for me, but I haven’t a clue where to begin, what I want, or even if it is possible.

There is no preparation and no mental game I can play to “get over” the loneliness.  In the initial aftermath of Phil’s death, my days were consumed by gut wrenching pain that never seemed to end.  That pain was followed by a numbness that allowed me to automatically persevere through the days.  I have found my footing in many ways, but my struggle is in wanting companionship and the laughter and fun my life once held.  That desire creates a conflict because it requires me to trust myself, others, and it requires leaning into that hope and letting go of the shroud of grief without losing sight of the love I once shared.

I do think it is more possible that I will spend the rest of my days alone and that is scary, horrifying, and crushing.  I am afraid of getting sick or dealing with a life event and having nobody to lean on just as much as I miss being the rock that was leaned on in times of crisis.  I miss being excited to go to a new place and being excited with someone.  I miss the laughter and knowing that nothing was ever as bad when the two of us faced whatever it was together.  I miss the hand on the small of my back and the eyes that lit up every time I walked in the door.  I miss sharing the life events of our children, the successes and the fears I carry. I ache for the laughter I once had in my life.  Loneliness is cold and unforgiving. Grief brought this imposter into my life and I do not think it is going any time soon.

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever

I am too young to be alone.  At 53, all I have known is being married and having children at home.  I never expected that the year my last child left the house my husband of 23 years would deploy and not come home.  Through the many military moves, my Phil and I drew closer and closer until our circle of support was the two of us and our children.  I expected my children to grow up and leave the house, but never once on this deployment did I worry about his safety.  Sure, the year was a nuisance, but I could be lonely and waiting for a year.  What happens when he didn’t come home?

It has been almost four years since Phil’s death and the loneliness that was once masked by the body aching grief and shock I felt initially is multiplying.  Everywhere I turn, I am alone.  Even in work, I am largely in a solitary office.  I run alone, I live alone, and I travel alone.  When I travel, the hardest part is the airport.  There are so many happy reunions and families traveling together that it literally reminds me of all that is gone.  My dream of growing old and sitting on a porch watching our grandchildren in WA state evaporated into a mirage of nothingness when one man decided that Phil’s life didn’t matter.  We had put off vacations together, dreamt of grandchildren, and eagerly awaited out next and last assignment before returning to the United States Air Force Academy to finish a career that we had walked together. I didn’t prepare for any deviations and nobody prepared me for the ache of loneliness, the ache of wanting, and the silence that echoes off of the walls as the screams and laughter of five children once resounded.

Just as I once felt that the loud chaos of having many children would never end, this is twenty times worse.  Instead of having the chaos to fill my hours, I have time and resources where I want to do things with someone.  I once relished quiet, but I find myself yearning for someone to laugh with, experience life with, and a new dream of growing old.  While it is far too soon to know if there will be a chapter two, I do know that Phil recognized that I would grow lonely.  In our last face to face conversation, we had the what if talk.  I wanted nothing to do with it until he stopped me with one simple question, “Would you want me to be happy again if you died first?”  Why yes, yes I would.  That is what he wanted for me, but I haven’t a clue where to begin, what I want, or even if it is possible.

There is no preparation and no mental game I can play to “get over” the loneliness.  In the initial aftermath of Phil’s death, my days were consumed by gut wrenching pain that never seemed to end.  That pain was followed by a numbness that allowed me to automatically persevere through the days.  I have found my footing in many ways, but my struggle is in wanting companionship and the laughter and fun my life once held.  That desire creates a conflict because it requires me to trust myself, others, and it requires leaning into that hope and letting go of the shroud of grief without losing sight of the love I once shared.

I do think it is more possible that I will spend the rest of my days alone and that is scary, horrifying, and crushing.  I am afraid of getting sick or dealing with a life event and having nobody to lean on just as much as I miss being the rock that was leaned on in times of crisis.  I miss being excited to go to a new place and being excited with someone.  I miss the laughter and knowing that nothing was ever as bad when the two of us faced whatever it was together.  I miss the hand on the small of my back and the eyes that lit up every time I walked in the door.  I miss sharing the life events of our children, the successes and the fears I carry. I ache for the laughter I once had in my life.  Loneliness is cold and unforgiving. Grief brought this imposter into my life and I do not think it is going any time soon.

Loneliness That Stretches Into Forever

I am too young to be alone.  At 53, all I have known is being married and having children at home.  I never expected that the year my last child left the house my husband of 23 years would deploy and not come home.  Through the many military moves, my Phil and I drew closer and closer until our circle of support was the two of us and our children.  I expected my children to grow up and leave the house, but never once on this deployment did I worry about his safety.  Sure, the year was a nuisance, but I could be lonely and waiting for a year.  What happens when he didn’t come home?

It has been almost four years since Phil’s death and the loneliness that was once masked by the body aching grief and shock I felt initially is multiplying.  Everywhere I turn, I am alone.  Even in work, I am largely in a solitary office.  I run alone, I live alone, and I travel alone.  When I travel, the hardest part is the airport.  There are so many happy reunions and families traveling together that it literally reminds me of all that is gone.  My dream of growing old and sitting on a porch watching our grandchildren in WA state evaporated into a mirage of nothingness when one man decided that Phil’s life didn’t matter.  We had put off vacations together, dreamt of grandchildren, and eagerly awaited out next and last assignment before returning to the United States Air Force Academy to finish a career that we had walked together. I didn’t prepare for any deviations and nobody prepared me for the ache of loneliness, the ache of wanting, and the silence that echoes off of the walls as the screams and laughter of five children once resounded.

Just as I once felt that the loud chaos of having many children would never end, this is twenty times worse.  Instead of having the chaos to fill my hours, I have time and resources where I want to do things with someone.  I once relished quiet, but I find myself yearning for someone to laugh with, experience life with, and a new dream of growing old.  While it is far too soon to know if there will be a chapter two, I do know that Phil recognized that I would grow lonely.  In our last face to face conversation, we had the what if talk.  I wanted nothing to do with it until he stopped me with one simple question, “Would you want me to be happy again if you died first?”  Why yes, yes I would.  That is what he wanted for me, but I haven’t a clue where to begin, what I want, or even if it is possible.

There is no preparation and no mental game I can play to “get over” the loneliness.  In the initial aftermath of Phil’s death, my days were consumed by gut wrenching pain that never seemed to end.  That pain was followed by a numbness that allowed me to automatically persevere through the days.  I have found my footing in many ways, but my struggle is in wanting companionship and the laughter and fun my life once held.  That desire creates a conflict because it requires me to trust myself, others, and it requires leaning into that hope and letting go of the shroud of grief without losing sight of the love I once shared.

I do think it is more possible that I will spend the rest of my days alone and that is scary, horrifying, and crushing.  I am afraid of getting sick or dealing with a life event and having nobody to lean on just as much as I miss being the rock that was leaned on in times of crisis.  I miss being excited to go to a new place and being excited with someone.  I miss the laughter and knowing that nothing was ever as bad when the two of us faced whatever it was together.  I miss the hand on the small of my back and the eyes that lit up every time I walked in the door.  I miss sharing the life events of our children, the successes and the fears I carry. I ache for the laughter I once had in my life.  Loneliness is cold and unforgiving. Grief brought this imposter into my life and I do not think it is going any time soon.

Happy Valentine’s Day–I Mean Single Awareness Day

Happy Valentine’s Day–I Mean Single Awareness Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day–I Mean Single Awareness Day

Single Awareness Day

Valentines Day is a day to celebrate love, but what of those sitting on the sidelines? Valentines Day has become “Single Awareness Day” to me because it reminds me of all that is gone in my life. This year instead of fixating on what I do not have, I am focusing inward and celebrating me. To say that I have changed and become a better version of myself in the past three and a half years is a small understatement. When I look in the mirror, the battle scars from the ravages of traumatic unexpected grief are etched into my face, and yet the eyes looking back reflect a quiet confidence that was never a part of my make up before.

When I married Phil, I was beaten down by life. Many do not realize that Phil was not my first spouse. I married young and we brought out the worst in one another. When I finally had enough, it cost me dearly. Phil saw something nobody else saw at the time. It took Phil asking me out 19 times before I finally said yes because he was everything that I thought I didn’t need or want. He was younger than I was by almost 6 years, military, and he initially struck me as a player. When I finally said yes to going out, I knew that he was the one. I fit. He fit with me. We brought out the best in one another. We both blossomed and thrived in the relationship and I thought that was the whole story. I wanted it to be the story that lasted far into the twilight years and when it wasn’t, I have been adrift trying to figure out who I am without someone to stand strong with.

There were so many decisions to make from the start. Where did I want to live when home was a person? Where do I fit when I only knew how to be Phil’s wife, best friend, and how to be the mother of our five children? None of it was familiar and it is still not easy, but there were two choices—give up or fight for stead. I am fighting to figure it out.

I have learned to trust my decisions because I recognize that even if I stumble, I will get back up, take a breath, and I will start again. I followed the fire in my heart and went back to school to work with military members. It is difficult to work all day and then go to school all night, but like a puzzle I see the pieces coming together. Every talent, interest, and life experience has led me into a path that I would never be on had Phil not been assassinated. It is humbling to recognize that I have never been more successful, but more than that, to recognize that I am impacting change. One small voice that speaks up has led to change in the big Air Force. One small voice has put military loss and issues of those that come home from the combat field bearing the invisible scars of having seen too much and lost even more. That one small voice is mine.

I may not want this journey, but by doing what feels right for me and by staying true to my moral compass, a new journey is being chartered. Do I miss Phil and what we shared? Every single day! I recognize something that came from his death. I recognize opportunities. I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if he had lived. I have done things and gone places I never would have done or gone if Phil had been alive. I lived in Europe for 18 months and I live on the east coast now. I have established myself in a job I never could have had if I was still following him all over the world. I started a PhD program which certainly wouldn’t have been possible if Phil were alive due to financial constraints. More than that, I have food in my fridge that would never have been in my fridge during our marriage because Phil hated strong cheeses. I eat differently, keep a different schedule, eat out a lot less, and I have less fun than I once had. I miss the laughter, the comfort, touch, and the friendship, but I am discovering a new Linda who is strong and capable.

Perhaps it is time to love myself.

Carpe Diem–Today is My Day

Carpe Diem–Today is My Day.

Carpe Diem–Today is My Day

Carpe Diem—Today Is My Day

So many people spend their lives in quiet desperation thinking one day….some day. I was no different and at times I am still stuck in the rut of day -to -day responsibilities and routines. Mired in the frenetic pace and wanting more, never quite reaching that elusive some day is exactly where I was when Phil was killed. I was happy sitting on the sidelines waiting, but I knew something was missing for me and for my life. Waiting is the sum of what I was doing. I spent my life waiting for what was within my realistic reach.

When Phil married me, he married a family. We were too poor to have magical vacations or meals out without our children. Our fun was family fun. There was no point wanting what we couldn’t afford, but when we finally reached that place where we could have vacations together, we were stuck. We were stuck in the one day we will….one day we will go to Venice. One day we will have the honeymoon we never took. One day…. but Phil’s days ended long before anyone could have thought and the opportunity to live that dream is gone.

Phil’s death ended every dream I had for my future and for the future I envisioned with the two of us.  Phil’s death ended the opportunity for the one day, some day. My dreams were largely centered around the two of us. At first, this broken assumptive view gave way to an darkness colder than the darkest night. Langston Hughes wrote: “Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” With no dreams, I was the walking corpse. What was there to work for, get me through the day for, to live for?

Part of learning to live again and to live without my Phil, has been the will to dream and hope again. A person without hope has nothing to get up for in the morning. One of the hardest aspects of this shift in my paradigm of living my life is exactly that. I spent my days from the time I was 21 and became a mother for the first time, dreaming for others. I didn’t consider what I wanted. Other than running, my eyes were focused on survival and that proverbial thought of “one day when we are retired.” Developing new dreams when one stands alone is difficult at best because with whom does one share the struggle to reach the dream or the laughter and peace when the dream is lived? This struggle is ongoing, but as part of my living life, loving life, and my thumbing my nose at Phil’s assassin, I simply must dream again.

I have three simple dreams. The first is to watch all of my children married and happy. A parent worries and a parent wants better for their children. I am no different. I have little control over this dream, thus I must quietly wait and hope.

The second dream is the dream of running The Great Wall of China Marathon. That dream is within my grasp. May 2016 is my projected date. Yes, there are other ways I could spend my money, and yes perhaps there will be less painful ways to go to China, but my dream includes running. Yesterday, I signed up for the travel agency’s newsletter to remind me when I can act on my dream. To make a dream come true, action is required. Hard work is necessary.

The last dream is the most difficult of all and perhaps it will never happen because it involves being vulnerable, opening myself up, and letting go of what was once was. While my dreams of the future shattered with Phil’s death, Phil’s death gave way to dreaming of a different future. While I would give anything to have Phil back, that will never happen. The dream involves learning to love again and establishing a future with another person. It is terrifying and this dream seems far beyond my reach. I don’t even know if it is feasible, but I do know that if I do not reach for this dream, I have limited myself. I have let the assassin rob me of life.

I don’t know where to start on working for this dream. I do know that I have made decisions about online dating. I can’t do it. Realistic reaching for my dream includes being open to other methods of meeting people. It is breath taking to even imagine a future with someone other than Phil, but I know that it would crush Phil if I stopped living and loving because of his death. He would want this for me. How do I know? He told me so in our last face to face conversation. I have written about this before, but Phil wanted to have the what if conversation before he left. I wanted nothing to do with the conversation and I made jokes about Raul the pool boy. I do not have a pool, nor do I know any Raul’s. He stopped me in my tracks with one simple question that still takes my breath away. “Linda, would you want me to be happy again if you died first?” Why yes, yes, I would.

On that conversation, I breathe through the fear and I have opened myself up to the hope of somebody to laugh with and to live life with some day. Some day, one day. This dream is easier said than done, but as part of living my dreams, I am reaching. I no longer sit in quiet complacency. I act on the dreams that I have the power to achieve and when I reach my dreams, I find more. I am no longer the broken winged bird that cannot fly. Some day, one day is today.