The Bliss Blog

As I have done for the past 20 years since my husband took his final breath in this incarnation, I use 12/21 as a day of recollection. Not to remain entrenched in the past, but to see how far I have traversed from that day when everything in my life changed. I penned these words two years ago.

“A tidy life.”… I woke up this morning after a fitful night’s sleep due to residual cough and congestion, with those words in my head. I have always wanted one of those. One where all the pieces fall into place, where actions and consequences are in alignment in my timing, not at the whim of some seemingly random force (call it God/Goddess/Universe/Spirit). One that makes sense to me, that I don’t struggle with the ‘how comes?’ As a therapist and minister, people ask me, “How could a loving God let ….. happen?” My pat answer (not sure I can use it anymore with integrity) was, “What if God didn’t let it happen? What if it was life getting lifey and God is the energy that gets you through it?” I have said all the words, done the dance, put the intention out there and still find myself coming up empty with consistent answers for myself and perhaps even for others.

18 years ago I woke up in the family waiting room of the MRICU (Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit) of Thomas Jefferson Hospital at the end of the life of my husband Michael who was awaiting a liver transplant. A few hours from now, I made the decision to turn off life support, since that was all that was sustaining some measure of functioning. Still feels surrealistic. It set me on a trajectory that led to this moment. Career change (that’s when I enrolled in seminary and became an interfaith minister and work as a freelance journalist) ensued. Exploration of who I was after a paradoxical marriage and as a single parent, dancing with various relationship partners, dipping my toe into the waters, but never having the courage to fully immerse myself. I witness the relationship between others (having married over 300 couples and counseled countless others), professionally and personally. About some I can say, “I’ll have what they’re having.” and about others, I want to steer clear. I have no clue at the moment the magic words or actions that it would take for me to be truly ready.

I got up multiple times throughout the night to breathe in steam from a pot of water on the stove, which harkens back to the days when as a child with asthma, my mother would take me into the bathroom and turn on the shower. These days, being environmentally conscious and not wanting to waste water, this seemed to be a better choice. It occurred to me that while it might be nice to have a partner to take care of me when I feel like this, I wondered what he could really do. I would have slept in the guest room, so as not to wake him up. I have learned to be self-sufficient when I am not feeling well. I felt like a burden as a child (even though my parents didn’t see it that way) since the asthma was a consistent presence. I became ultra responsible, not wanting anyone else to pick up the slack to take care of me. Bizarre for a therapist, not to reach out to talk to anyone, since I reasoned that they couldn’t resolve this existential angst I am feeling at the moment. I promise I will today.

Lately, I have been uncovering aspects of myself that I don’t find appealing, that reveals the vulnerable, sometimes exhausted woman who worked for so long to create a facade that is now crumbling. Is my life easier than some? Yes. Am I living in a war zone? No. Can I pay my bills? Yes. Is income as easy and consistent and commensurate with my abilities? Nope. Do I have loving and wonderful people in my life? Ab-soul-utely! Has everything in my life worked out, sometimes better than I had imagined? For sure.

This feels like a temporary blip of a gremlin clamoring for attention, but one I needed to acknowledge so that it doesn’t drag me under. Will my life ever be tidy? Maybe for a little while, but I need to keep cleaning it up and sometimes just let things fall out of place so I can set them up again.”

Two years after writing this missive, I take note that my life had gotten exquisitely cluttered with adventures; that included a dream of a lifetime trip to Ireland, where I hugged my way across the country, had called in a new lover who is now a friend and rekindled (briefly) with a former partner. I had been ‘catfished’ by someone playing games with my heart; not a kind man, clearly. I had recovered from a serious bout with pneumonia that on Easter Sunday this year, landed me in the hospital. I saw a dear friend through her cancer treatment and ushered her to the Other Side. I lost two more friends around that same time. Blessedly, I witnessed my son marrying the love of his life and buy their first house together. In a few days, they will be hosting Christmas Day festivities there. My lungs are healthy and happy.

I am determined to dance into the New Year, starting the next 20 with vibrancy and zest, leaving a trail of joy as I go. No need to tidy that up.