I Didn’t Know I was in Training

Pretty much wherever you are in the world, you are probably experiencing some type of quarantine/isolation/curfew rules in your area. I HOPE you are, anyway.

I’m on day 22. I a little ahead of most people, because I’m immuno-compromised and the DR is getting hit with COVID-19, so in my paranoia and attempt to stay covid-free I began isolating a week before everyone else. Isolation has been lonely. We all are having our own experiences but I think it’s safe to say that I’m the only person I know who is on an island with no roots or family, and no real way to get back to the US (even though I don’t want to, it’s weird that I can’t).

I’m going a little stir crazy but mostly because I’m an errand-runner. I’m not too people-y but I do enjoy leaving the house and seeing something besides my 4 walls. But overall I’m handling this pretty well, more so than many. And then I realize…here’s another example of a man I loved teaching me something so valuable.

When I was hospicing my dad, I didn’t know it then but he was training me. Teaching me how to help Michael die just a few months later. The experience I gained helping my dad was invaluable when Michael got sick. I knew all about what he was going to experience. I know what to expect. What to watch for. How to “cancer-proof” the house. How to help him prepare to die.

And here we are. A year and a half later, and the world is in quarantine. Particularly in the Dominican Republic, for the moment the regulations are more strict. We have a nationwide curfew from 5pm-6am, and it’s being enforced. Similar to the US, all the stores and small businesses are closed. Nothing here is open except food or life sustaining places. Our confirmed cases are still growing quickly and our death rate is high, last time I checked it was over 6%. And all we can do is stay home.

And then, I realize it again. I’m actually handling this quarantine okay all things considered. It’s been 22 days of isolation, but this is just a physical isolation. Losing Michael was my training for this. Because since he has been gone, I’ve been isolated anyway. No, perhaps not physically isolated – but I locked myself away in a safe place where nobody else was allowed. I depended on a few but that didn’t work out, so I went inside myself. And I’ve been here ever since.

Yes, it’s lonely. My life has a huge gaping hole in it. But that’s not to say I’m sad or depressed. I’m not. I’m feeling pretty hopeless for the moment and pretty numb, but like with all other horrible things, I can say I’ve been through much worse. So the fear doesn’t exist for me.

Michael taught me that love is whole, and he taught me that loss is deep. He taught me that some losses will be felt forever. He taught me how to go inside myself and count on me, because I’m the only one I had for the most part.

I think back to the first Thanksgiving by myself. My 50th birthday, two weeks after he died. Alone. I think of every lonely night, every conversation I wish I could have with him. I think of the decisions I’ve made without his counsel. I think of the night of his service and my sister asking my daughter to take her home because she didn’t want to stay with me because I was a drag. I think of the future. I think of all the times I REALLY need him to help me decide on something. All the times I was lost and had no idea what to do. And more times like that to come. All the times we were robbed of. And I realize, losing him just prepped me for this. I’m pretty good at emotional survival skills, turns out.

I think the word expert is earned through experiences, not degrees. And I would say that I am an expert in death and emotional survival. It sucks to be an expert in these things, but here I am.

And I suppose I am grateful. Grateful that the gut wrenching loneliness and pain have equipped me to just keep on keeping on. And to those who are new to this isolation, welcome to my world. ❤ Take comfort in knowing that someday, your isolation will end. ❤

Stay safe.

Peace,

~ Lisa

Isolation

Hello fellow isolators and quarantiners. Or at least, I HOPE you’re isolating and quarantining. Otherwise I’ll need to lecture you about what a selfish a-hole you are.

Like you guys, we here in the DR are also under lockdown. All borders will close by land, sea, and air tomorrow. No commercial businesses are to operate unless they sell food or necessities. Like you guys, I’m out of quite a bit of work as well because several of my private writing clients are taking a hit right now and have suspended my services. Such is the world we live in today. The surreal world.

I’m isolating as long as it takes. I am immune compromised for so many reasons. To be honest, I wouldn’t care if it killed me. But I couldn’t live with myself if I caused harm to someone else just because I was selfishly moving around town. I also couldn’t handle the thought of leaving my dogs and what would happen to them.

I was thinking about Michael, and what we would be doing right now if he were still alive. As bad as it sounds, this time would have been a privilege for us. We never really seemed to get sick of each other and we would have loved the chance for the time together.

We’d be shooting zombies on Xbox. Playing Mario Kart or Wii bowling. Binge watching something. Cooking fun meals. Taking walks. Playing with dogs. Listening to music. Drinking coffee together. We’d probably be doing some kind of project on the house or the yard. We’d have a good game of cards going. We’d be talking and solving the problems of the world, speculating about the universe and all of creation, laughing and enjoying our time together in spite of the reasons. That’s just the couple we were.

If you are quarantining alone, then you know it isn’t fun. But I realized…it’s what I’ve been doing since he died. Just like the self-isolation you are feeling now – this has been my reality. You KNOW people are out there. But they’re not in your presence. Even though you know they’re out there, you are still alone. Your house might echo. You might realize that you haven’t spoken out loud for an entire day (unless you have pets to talk to like I do). You are not comfortable leaving your house because you don’t know what awaits you. This has been my reality since July 30, 2018. Being alone through this time, as hard as it is, is STILL not as bad as the isolation I was sentenced to. Because when I was going through it, nobody else was. The comfort of experiencing this now is knowing that everyone is in the same boat.

Let’s talk about PTSD shall we? I saw an article online last night talking about how the dead are being handled in Italy. And wow. What a trigger it was. I can’t stop thinking about it, and flashing back to a multitude of experiences with my dad and with Michael. One of the things I will always regret was watching the funeral home come and take my dad. The neighbors and my dad’s wife advised me to not be in the room, and they all went next door. But I had promised my dad I would never leave him. So I stayed. And I’m so sorry I did. I have lots of PTSD moments, and lots of horrible things I flash back to. You really can’t bury those moments as much as you try. And you never know what triggers are around the corner.

My grief is shifting. I’m finally over the surprise element, I think. I no longer wake up and think he’s still alive. I no longer get hit by a 2×4 when I realize I can’t reach out and talk to him, and I no longer instinctively grab my phone to tell him something funny. I’ve moved into an acceptance. I know he’s gone. I know it’s forever. I know that I’m alone, and I know I’ll never have what we had again in my life. I am aware that the one person who knew the real me and who loved me unconditionally, has left this life. And I’m aware that a lot of me went with him, never to return. And mostly, I’m aware that I can’t come back from it.

It’s not depressing. It’s just reality. I know that all I can do is live my best life while I’m here. Serving my life sentence. And I know that I have to believe I’ll be with him again, or I couldn’t go on. I cry a lot, almost every day. But it’s not a terrible thing. It’s just an acknowledgement of missing him and loving him and wanting him back so bad and knowing that’s impossible.

I feel him very strongly lately. I found a feather in my made bed the other night. I heard one of our very rare songs that I have never told anyone about. And he is messing with my electronics again. Once in a while, my speaker announces it is connected to his iPhone even though the phone no longer exists in my house. I’m finding little trinkets that meant something between us. I know he’s here. But he’s not here at all.

I hope everyone is doing okay during this scary and unsure time. And I hope that this isolation gives some people a little compassion and empathy for those of us who live this every day. ❤

Take care of yourselves friends. And each other. Stay home. And thank your lucky stars if you have someone to stay home with. ❤

Peace,

~ Lisa

The Best is Behind Me

I was messaging with a friend last night, and he sent me a meme that said “the best is yet to come”. I replied and said, no…the best is behind me. Good things will still come, but the best is behind me.

He agreed.

Now, this reality does affect me, but it’s not what you might expect. Realizing that I’m just serving time, I’m a lot more fearless. Not reckless (usually), but fearless. I take more chances (clearly). I don’t worry a whole lot about consequences any more. I’m not overly concerned about my future. I have zero plans to buy a house. I have zero plans at all.

The life sentence.

The other thing it has changed in me is my trust level and my level of accepting things that stress me out or hurt me. Quite simply, I won’t. That’s not to say I’m unforgiving. That’s the last thing I am. Many, many people in my life today have hurt me deeply in the past. Because I do forgive. But I’m far more ready to walk away from one-sided relationships and opportunities that don’t feel right or jive with who I am. I accept that others have walked away from me, and I no longer have the desire to know why or to push myselves on them.

I have a very strong instinct and read on people. That was very flawed and my vision hasn’t been clear for a while, but my clarity is gaining momentum. The life sentence Lisa honors this strongly. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.

I have learned how to say no. No explaining why. No excuses. No, I’m sorry I can’t. No, I can’t make it. No, I’m not able to take that on. Just no. I’m sticking to my no’s.

In a nutshell, Life Sentence Lisa isn’t looking to build a future. I’m looking for peace and contentment in the now. I’m not looking for love. I’m not planning my next step. I’m not faking niceties to people. I’m not interested in those who aren’t authentic or those who put on a face for the world that is very different than who they really are. I’m not interested in money, material stuff, or the future.

The best part of me, the happiest years of my life, are behind me. And that’s okay. I hope to spend my life sentence doing what I’m doing now – working just enough to make ends meet, helping dogs when I can, saying yes to what I want to, saying no to what I want to, and recognizing my relationships for exactly what they are, good or bad.

I’m looking out the windshield at the rocky terrain, and in the rear view mirror there is beauty and calm. But there’s still a beauty in the rocky parts. Clarity is a really, really beautiful thing.

Peace,

~ Lisa

 

The Experiment Continues

Hi, guys.

After a couple of months off the blog, here I am again! The past couple months have been spent processing, breaking away from toxicity, clearing my energy, and letting go. I had a really hard holiday season this year for lots of reasons, but I came through and now I’m coasting in a pretty chill place in my mind.

There’s a lot going on, much of it trivial, so I’ll stick to the notable things.

Yes, I’m still in the Dominican Republic. I dig it here! Are there frustrations and things I don’t like? Absolutely. But I’m not planning on going anywhere for a bit. I love my view, I love the climate, and I love that I’m not in the US. I love the friends that are truly friends, and there’s never a dull moment. 😂

I haven’t been doing a ton, but I’m taking steps to find my groove here. I’ve been doing some freelance writing for friends in the states mostly, writing blogs and newsletters and other marketing things. I’m also working on starting up a small cupcake side biz.

I’m still rescuing dogs. Not with any rescue in particular, but I’ve made lots of rescuer friends here and that’s been a wonderful experience. I’m itching to start something up, but I’m also really evaluating what I want and can do. I currently have two foster pups here, Newman and Donovan. ❤️

Newman – sweet mixed breed, 3 yrs old
Donovan- Pitbull puppy

My RA sucks here. I’m aggressively working on addressing the rapid progression. I’m dramatically changing my nutrition to focus on anti/inflammatory foods in hopes that I can get some relief. I’m committed to staying on the poison pills for at least 6 months. I’m spending time in the pool which feels great and helps.

Michael. Well, he’s always in my heart and my head. I’m still having tsunamis, but they seem less frequent. I have meltdowns and I also have many great days. I still break into tears sometimes for reasons I don’t understand and I’m very fragile.

I find myself wondering a lot if he’s disappointed in me. And that’s a heavy, sad burden to carry. I also have frequent nightmares and waking flashbacks. I always feel doubt and insecurity, wondering if he’s just shaking his head at me. It’s pretty tough.

I’m trying to discover who I am as just Lisa. I’m trying to learn where I’m going without controlling it too much. I’m just observing and seeing who I am.

One thing is for sure: Michael was the biggest thing I liked about myself. Having him was like having a built-in support system all the time. And that support made me confident. It made me an over-achiever. It drove me and lifted me.

He really was the best thing about me.

Now, I’m just…I don’t know. What I do know, is that I miss being someone’s everything. I miss having someone who was also my everything. I miss the team we were. I miss the trust we shared. I miss my partner. I miss having someone to hash things out with, to help me reason things out, to help me plan or decide big things. I’m just…I don’t know. Invisible.

It’s been a year and a half. And it’s not easier. I’m more used to it, but it is not any easier.

My life sentence.

Now that’s not to say I’m depressed or walking around wanting to die. It just means that my life isn’t the same. Never will be. And I’ll always miss him so much.

I promised an experiment when I started this. Sharing my private life very publicly, believe it or not, hasn’t been easy. My readers have been privy to all of it. It damaged my relationships with some, and it has earned me respect and new friendships with others. Come what may, the experiment continues.

Peace out, and I’ll be checking in more often.

~ Lisa

Taking a Break

I’ve always been an open book, and never more so than when Michael got sick and thereafter. I always wanted to be honest, and I started blogging initially because it was easier to post updates than it was to answer each individual message.

But now, things have changed.

Those who are in my life, are. Those who are interested in me, reach out directly. The list is substantially smaller than it was a year ago. And the time has come that I realize and accept that the openness I have always posted here, has hurt me. It has alienated me from some, and it has led others to think I’m insane. It’s led others to think I enjoy being a victim, or that I’m trying to be a martyr with a cross to bear. It’s caused some to believe that I’m dramatic, or that I’m stuck.

Essentially, it has just broadened the judgments about me and made me feel more alone than ever.

I learned some very sad family news yesterday. And I can’t talk about it. Because I realize that the things I post about are depressing and that they just further some people’s beliefs that I’m comfy being a victim. So I am now censoring myself here, and that defeats the whole purpose.

I have learned that just the story of my life in and of itself, when being told, sounds like I’m feeling victimized. Sometimes I am, but it’s not a comfortable role for me to stay in. People who know me, know this. They know that I’m continually working to be the driver in my life and not a passenger. They know the strength and the pain it takes to do what I need to do each day, and find ways to smile and laugh and have fun. They see the person who was brave and left the country, they see the person who was always strong before this and is gaining more strength every day. They understand that I may have bad days, they understand that my judgment isn’t always clear, they accept that my brain is on overload and that sometimes I’m not myself. They understand that I’m in a “mental health crisis” (coined by one of said friends) and they love me enough to see me through it. They believe in me and they know I can come back from this. They see more than JUST this mental health crisis I’m in.

victim

My losses and tragedies will always be my story and they will always be huge building blocks of the person I am. I can’t deny them. But I don’t need to share them with everyone either. Sharing has caused me more loss, and I don’t want to lose anyone else in my life. I also don’t want to put out any more negativity. The world doesn’t need it.

So for now, I’m taking a step back. I have lots on my mind to figure out; I am worried about my future and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to land on my feet. And I will. I always have. I just don’t need to put any more negativity out into the world, and I don’t want to receive any either.  I will check in from time to time, but for right now at least, I need to work on things privately.

Peace,

~ Lisa

Rearview Mirror

A sleepless night. Physical pain, lots on my mind, and busy dogs all added up to me giving up and getting out of bed at 3:30am.

In the quiet of the morning, I sit and drink my coffee. I pet my new foster dog, at my home because of unspeakable abuse. I check the pool pump that exploded last night and is flooding the dead body cave room under the waterfall. I hope that the help that said they were coming, will actually come.

Today I want to talk about running away and looking forward all at once.

Moving to the island was definitely a run-away. I needed to get out of the environment that I shared with Michael. I needed to get out of our home, the place where he took his last breath. I needed to get away from the well-meaning but very painful interactions with those that still to this day reach out to me, expecting me to be able to comfort them because they miss him. I needed to get away from the pity looks and the whispers, the scenes where I would step up to the crowd and they would fall silent. I needed to get away from the pain of knowing friends that were nearby but who disappeared.

In running away, I also enabled myself to face the pain and the grief and process my losses and my life and my future. I personally believe that unless you really face it and address it and push through it, you won’t heal. And I can’t carry that kind of pain with me. And I couldn’t do it where I was.

It’s like getting in the car, driving away from a terrible fire, seeing it in the rearview mirror. You know you had to flee the fire or you would be burned to ashes. The fire consumed everything you thought your life was, and now you’re driving into a black gaping hole.  You know that it can be a tunnel, or it can be a cave. Depending on which way you turn once inside. And if you do indeed find the tunnel and not the cave, you have no idea where the tunnel lets out. The tunnel is SO LONG that you think maybe you found the cave instead. But you keep driving, sometimes with no headlights, and you hope that you chose the tunnel. You hope to see the light.

The rear view mirror. What a bullshit thing this is. You can’t ignore it, as it has formed who you are and it is your story. But you can’t dwell there because that’s a cave. So you look out the windshield, even when it’s pitch black, and you squint and seek a direction.

The problem with the rearview mirror is that it reminds you of what you’ve lost, what you once had, and what you’ll never have again. At the same time, it can remind you of your strengths, your blessings, and the fires you have run away from.

I’ve been focusing really intently on that rearview mirror, adjusting it and changing the angle and the view so I see what I need to see and forget the rest. The pain and hurtful things that have happened are no longer in that view. All that is in that view is the loving marriage I was blessed to have; the moments of pride in my rescue and my accomplishments; the last few weeks with my dad that were life-changing and intensely meaningful; the memories that are my story. I’m looking through the windshield now.

I’m letting it all go. I’m a pretty good letter-go’er if I say so myself. I have let all the times I have been hurt go. I have let all the times I’ve felt wronged, go. I’ve let the life I used to live, go. None of these things serve me any longer.

The windshield is a scary view. I have no idea what’s ahead. My headlights still aren’t working reliably, and I can’t see sharp turns ahead. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I’m pretty sure it is the tunnel I am in, not the cave.  With this, comes fear and anxiety.

And now, I have to work on letting that go. Just BE. Right here, right now. Just be. I’m in a position that some would envy. Relatively youngish with no ties whatsoever. I can go ANYWHERE I WANT. Do whatever I want to. I can move to Mexico next (which I think about a lot). I can go back to the US (not on my radar at the moment). I can stay here forever (doubtful but hey, it’s an option). I need to trust that somehow I will land on my feet as I always have. Trust that somehow I will find my way as I always have. Let it go and give it over to the universe. And I need to always remember, nothing is permanent.

Let it go. Look forward. You can run away and run into something all at once.  And while you can’t tear that rearview mirror off, you can adjust it.

Peace,

~ Lisa

Why’d I do it!

Happy Sunday, everyone.

I’m struggling. A lot.

I guess I must have forgotten I did this, but it turns out I chronicled and photo-journaled so much of Michael’s last weeks. I was digging through my phone looking for a specific completely unrelated photo, and then I got to them. I could see the progression in the photos of when we still had hope and as it faded. I have photos of him shaving all his facial hair off because it bothered him. Photos of him in hospital beds, waking up from surgeries. Lots of hospital bed selfies of us, him withering away and me with puffy eyes.

I saw fake brave faces and the spirit leave both of our eyes. And omg the details. I took SO MANY photos. There are videos too, but I cannot bring myself to watch them.

I am SO tired of my story. I hope it’s just the holidays. I have been doing phone therapy with my therapist in MN every two weeks, and we have decided that my PTSD is a major component. Yes of COURSE there is grief. Of course. But the complicated grief (one loss after another – my son, my grandkids, my dad, many pets, Michael) and the circumstances (watching my father and my husband die within months of each other, after I hands-on caregave until their last breaths). To put it simply, my brain feels broken. I feel like I may never recover. Well, let me rephrase. I can never recover. When I have a good day, I literally say “hey! I’m proud of myself, I had a good day!” I define a good day as no panic attacks and no breakdowns. I probably have those about half the time. the bad days are so powerful that it takes me a day or two to mentally recover from it. This shit is not for the weak.

I look at his photos and if he’s looking at the camera, it takes my breath away. I go back to that moment and that feeling and that time and get so fucking sad that he’s gone. He’s just GONE. Plucked off the planet.

And in a half hour, I’ll be okay. And in a few hours, I won’t. And then it starts all over. I don’t trust myself out and about except for short periods. Crowds overwhelm me. I’ve put up walls and let very few in. I want connections but I’m safer behind the keyboard. It feels like it will never change.

I think I’m also upset that it is STILL so raw. I feel like something is wrong with me. I’m breaking my own rules and looking at timeline. I’m wondering when the fuck this is NOT going to kick my ass. Or IF it will ever NOT kick my ass. I don’t know why it feels so fresh again or why I’m back in the depths of darkness.  Maybe healing isn’t linear and is instead like a pinball machine, bouncing you all over the place. Or maybe I’m backsliding.

Seventeen more days until you-know-what. I’m gonna call it Wednesday. This used to be the time leading to a lot of wonderful and warm and fun times together.

Any my heart is broken.

Peace

~ Lisa