Monday, January 31, 2011

Stronger Than Most?

The other night (over cold Bud Lights and the beautiful ambiance of Wings Sports Bar) Heidi and I had a discussion. I love that I can tell my "sister-wife" anything....and so I do.

Somehow a discussion of strength came up. I told Heidi that I didn't like when people say things like, "You are SO STRONG...If I were in your shoes I would have curled up and died." Or, "You are SO STRONG... I still wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.." Little comments like this hit my heart painfully. Not because I truly believe anyone means harm by this, or even judgement, however it often feels that way.

It makes me feel like I didn't properly grieve my husband. It makes me feel like people think I am not still grieving him.

Dan was my best friend. He knew the good, the bad, the ugly, and loved every part of it. There are few loves like that in the world, and I was lucky enough to have had the chance to experience it. That being said, that doesn't mean, I'm not going to give love another chance. It doesn't mean that I am going to say that my best years are behind me, and it's all down here from there. I truly don't believe that. There is a plan for me, and I am excited to live it.

I put live in bold because that is what Dan would want me to do. It's what my sister and family want me to do, it's what my friends and those who love me want me to do, it's what I want to do.

The other night, I opened one of Dan's dresser drawers to grab a pair of his boxers, which I often still wear to bed. I looked at some of his clothes and thought: Tiffin: You can do this. Tackle this one drawer, and you will have jumped another hurdle on this road. So, I did. I took out the boxers, the t-shirts, the socks, and few random shorts that Dan must have stuffed in there. (And he always called me the stuffer.) I made a pile of t-shirts I wanted to keep and ones I could donate. As I pulled each t-shirt out of the drawer, each and every one was a memory. I could picture a day that Dan wore that shirt, what we were doing, where we were, his always grin...

Yes, I cried. I cried really hard as a matter of fact, but when I was finished, I wiped my face and started to giggle. I looked at myself in the mirror and stared at the hot mess standing in front of me. I remembered the first time I cried in front in Dan. He stroked my hair and kept telling me that he had never met anyone that looked beautiful when they cried. He said, "Everyone has an ugly cry face, except for you." Whether he meant it or not, it got me to stopcrying and I even got (one of my many) nicknames out of it. He called me Stormy, because he said my eyes looked like the sky right after a storm.

I realized after I bagged the clothes, washed my face, blew my nose, that dealing with my grief has definitely gotten easier. I don't cry as often anymore and when I do, it doesn't last as long as it used to. When I think of Dan it is to smile, not cry.

I received an email today from someone I've never met. She is a friend of a friend. The email was titled "Getting Up" and it brought tears to my eyes as I read it. It wasn't an email that told me "You are SO STRONG....because I wouldn't be able to...." It was an email that just said, "You are SO STRONG." Thank you, my new friend, I appreciate those words so much.

My advice to anyone who might be inspired by someones strength: Don't sell yourself short. Don't compare yourself to someone else's strength, especially if you have not experienced their situation. Be undaunted in the fact that you can and will tackle whatever life has to throw at you. Be confident that God has a plan for you, and "Getting Up" in the morning is half the battle.

Thank you for all of you who continue to pray for me and my strength, it's working! I am living again, and loving every minute of it. I love when my real smile runs across my face. Just knowing that I am not faking it, makes me smile that much bigger!

Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them. ~ Washington Irving

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear, Part Two

I have always been the one to do the grocery shopping. I used to go to Giant in Columbia, when Dan and I lived in Columbia. When we moved to Jessup, I started frequenting Weis in Laurel. I didn't think that my switch of the grocery store was pertinent until one day Dan's eyes got to be the size of saucers as he looked at the Weis logo on a plastic bag. He held it up, and said, "Where did you go grocery shopping?" I lifted my eyebrows and gave him my best, "DUH" face and pointed to said bag. Dan did not like the fact that I grocery shopped after dark most days, and that now I was grocery shopping at "the scary store" after dark. My response was, "Honey, it's fine.... there's always a security guard there." He didn't appreciate that either. After that, Dan would usually call me or text me while I was trying to get shopping accomplished. It probably didn't make matters any better since I normally came home with stories of interactions I had at the store. Even now that Dan has passed, I still shop at Weis. I have never once felt threatened there, and even less now that I have this guardian angel. I have, however, had some fantastic encounters that I'd like to share via "Mean Tiffin."

Dear Weis Supermarket,

I first want to thank you for your convenient and diversely beautiful location. There has never been a time that I have been to your store without some kind of experience. I have been taking note, and would like to share a few of them with you. I'd like to start in your produce section where there are copious amounts of employees. They do not speak English, and normally aren't smiling, but they can water the hell out of some broccoli, and those apple displays are nothing short of amazing. Asking for corn on the cob one summer and being led to the sweet potatoes didn't stop me from coming back. I also like how the salad bar is conveniently located just at the side of the produce section butted right up to the seafood counter. Nothing says delicious salad like the smell of imitation crab and day old salmon. The absolute best part is the jolly looking man with the long gray hair working behind the seafood counter. Last summer as I was holding my breath, and creating a salad, I felt the stare. I looked up at your friendly employee and saw his grin. I gave him an awkward smile, knowing by the look on his face that he felt the need to share. He said, "Hey....You don't get a body like that from eating salad." In my head: Really, Santa Clause? Don't you have some elves to go control? I say: "Not everybody can be this lucky." in my most sarcastic tone with squinty eyed-smile. Yes, I felt embarrassed and insulted, however I continued to load that salad with bacon bits and ranch and headed on my way. Again, I haven't given up on your store.

My next encounter should have been embarrassing for this gentleman, but I was the only one red in the face. Just like all other strategically placed items in your store, the soaps are also conveniently located next to the adult diapers. I was shopping for body wash, and look to my right to see an older man scanning the Depends. I felt a pang of sadness for him, and wanted to leave him alone in the isle. I would come back later. He looked up at me, as I was looking at him and I just smiled at him while I was turning my cart around. He said, "You got an awfully pretty smile. You whiten those teeth?" In my head: Sir, I really don't know why you care when you have 2 and a half teeth in your entire mouth. Starting to floss now or pursuing a whitening regimen is not bringing anything back...but I digress. I say: "Thank you." Still turning the cart and headed in the opposite direction he begins to speak louder. "I drive a truck that delivers steaks to a real nice steak house down the street." "If I could get a discount on dinner would you like to go with me sometime?" In my head: You are shopping for adult diapers, you probably have shit and piss in your pants right now as you are speaking to me, you don't have any teeth, and could possibly pass as a leather handbag from afar, and yet, you think you have a chance? What's that say about me? Damn Tiffin, you need to put on some makeup before you come here from now on! I say: "No thank you, I am married." and rush out of the aisle as fast as humanly possible. I chuckled as I passed the meats and glanced over the steaks.

Another day as I was moving toward the milk, I felt a very close presence at my back. The security guard, (appropriately dressed in SWAT gear) had just passed, so my fear level was low. I turned around and saw a black man in an all black sweat suit. I'm all about comfy shopping, so there was no judging there. He tipped up his all black hat and looked behind him, in front of the two of us, and then started to whisper. "So, I see that you married, but you real fine.""Can I call you sometime?" In my head: OOOOOOHHH, so this is what Oprah means by the "DL"? That's a really nice wedding ring YOU are wearing! I say: "I appreciate the compliment, but No." "Well, if the answer is NO, why you smilin' at me like dat?" In my head: Because I am really uncomfortable, I giggle when I'm nervous, and crap, I just broke a sweat on my upper lip! I say: "Have a good night." He throws up his hands, and says, "All right, all right now, just thought I'd ask."

There have been more fabulous encounters, but I will save them for another letter at another time. I can't wait for my interactions now that my wedding rings have been taken off. Tell your produce employees that it doesn't matter they can't speak English, Tell Santa that his wife is a closet "salad eater" and three of my bodies wouldn't make up one of her...yah, he didn't think I glanced at that photo on the bulletin board, but I did. Maybe try moving the adult diapers next to the baby diapers, so these people can at least pretend they are being doting grandparents. And finally, the OCD cashier that has to write down the skew numbers? I understand equal rights, but holy 25 minutes in line for 10 items or less! If you must keep him, promise me that he never works a busy Sunday and any other lane but express.

To many more evenings together in Laurel,

Mean Tiffin

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dreams

The night Dan passed away and every night that followed for a while, I fell into very deep sleeping patterns. Yes, they might have been Xanex and Zoloft induced sleeps, but either way, It was a way for me to escape.

The first dream I had with Dan in it, was the actual night he was gone from this world forever. I will remember the dream for the rest of my life, he came to me to say goodbye.

I was laying on the couch that night, in a ball. I was paralyzed by shock, denial, and fear. I must have fallen asleep. In the dream, Dan walked downstairs to the basement, just like he did every other day. He smiled at me and I felt so relieved. I told him, "I had the most terrible dream." He didn't let me finish telling him about the dream. He layed down next to me, almost to the point of being on top of me. I remember trying to hold him, but my arms wouldn't move. He just held me. He said, "I am so sorry." I couldn't talk, I think at this point, somewhere, somehow, I knew it was a dream, and he wasn't really with me. He held me and told me that he loved me, and he was so sorry that he had to go. I wanted to hold him back, I wanted to scream, I wanted to beg and plead, but only tears poured out, no words, just tears. It's as if my tears were his words, and the soft, quiet, wetness of them woke me. I opened my eyes, and still felt his arms around me. I stayed very still, I could feel the pressure around my shoulders, I started to cry harder, as my body shook, the feeling of him left. I have never felt him in a dream again.

My dreams about Dan continued but they were nightmares. He would call me on the phone and tell me that he faked his own death because he hated being married to me. He would show up at the house and I would be so excited to see him, knowing that a miracle happened, and all he wanted to do was pick up some of his things. He didn't love me anymore. These dreams would always leave me empty, crying, hurting. That hurt would stay with me for days to follow.

Those nightmares ceased and another set of dreams occurred. Dan would miraculously come back from the dead. He would come home and I would beg him to go see a doctor. We would have discussions about how he died of a heart attack, and how we have to prevent it from happening again. He would always be stubborn-ass-Dan and tell me to "Stop lecturing him", "I'm fine." We would sign up for races and I would beg him not to run, until we were sure his heart could take it. The dreams always ended the same way. Dan dies again of a heart attack, while running. Every time I woke from these dreams I would feel the shock and pain all over again. I would wake to the eyes of the doctor, being handed his wedding ring, the rain on the windows.

My dreams have changed as I have been changing. My wings are healing and I am starting to learn how to fly again. I think the dreams I am having now show growth in my healing, however they are still painful at times.

In my most recent dreams, I have moved on. The dreams always take place at my old house in Arnold, Falcon Crest, the reason behind this, I have no idea. I am living in the house with someone. The someone doesn't have a face, and he isn't really in the dream, however, I know he's there, and he is in the basement watching tv. There is a knock on the door and when I open it, it's Dan. He tells me that it's a miracle, and he's back. My heart sinks. My first instict is to run down the stairs and tell whoever the man is to leave. Leave...leave quickly, my husband is home!! But then, another wave hits me. A wave that I haven't felt before, I have moved on. I am content with this new life. Who gives you the right to come back and expect me to be the same person after leaving me a year ago, no goodbye, no warning, just gone. All of these emotions hit me so quickly in the dream, and I am usually sweating so badly at this point, I wake up. I don't know if I will ever make a choice in the dream. I do know that in real life, I don't have to. My husband is gone and he is never coming back. If I know anything, Dan wants to see me smile. He wants me to be happy, to get back to the Tiffin that he fell in love with.

I am slowly but surely getting back there. When I got out of the shower this morning, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was smiling, I thought, "Hey...I recognize you." I loved it. 2011 is going to be fresh start for me, and I am actually looking forward to it. I felt guilty for a second even writing that, but I shouldn't! Who should feel guilty about wanting to live again?

Who knows what my next series of dreams will be, but if someone could throw in a little Channing Tatum, I'd appreciate it.... maybe he could be the other guy??!!?? ;)