Leaving A Mark

About a month ago I got a tattoo to memorialize Bryan. At the risk of sounding like a devotee of Twilight [for the record I AM NOT. I don’t even know what they’re called], Bryan imprinted so profoundly on my life, that it just made sense to leave an imprint on myself to mark that time. [Update: I just Googled what you call fans of Twilight…apparently it’s “Twihards”. Cool.] I thought a lot about what I wanted to permanently remind my of not only my amazing husband, but also of the earth shattering effect the aftermath of his death has had on me and those in my orbit.  It goes without saying that this has FOREVER changed me to my core (but not like beneficially in the form of six-pack abs or anything) as well as the trajectory of my life.  Needless to say I couldn’t take this inking as lightly as if I was at Daytona Beach Spring Break ’87 excited for my butterfly wing lower back tattoo. No offense to any of my tens of readers with lower back tattoos. Love you hot messes!

lower back tattoo

True story: this was the first thing that came up upon Googling “lower back tattoo”. NOTE: Shown here for reference only. I do not, I repeat do not, have this tattoo.

Also, I should note this wasn’t my first tattoo, so the “should I get a tattoo at all or not” wasn’t really a factor in my decision making.  It’s true what they say, once you get one, you definitely want more. Anyway back to the design.  For a while I had wanted to get a tattoo based on this new technology where you tattoo a sound wave and using an app can then play it by scanning your tattoo.  Bryan had left me so many cute, funny, and random voicemails that I envisioned using one of those, and I’m deathly afraid of forgetting the sound of his voice (like it keeps me up at night).  Well thanks to my shitty iPhone and shitty Sprint service, my phone deleted ALL OF MY SAVED VOICEMAILS (more on that here) so that idea was a bust. Thus it was time to resort to the trusty old internet machine. Scanning Pinterest, memorial tattoos run the gamut from beautiful to heart wrenching to tacky to confusing to just plain poor ink work. While I went for inspiration, I definitely wasn’t seeing what I wanted.  I had figured I would do something more symbolic vice the very on-the-nose broken heart, inspirational quote, birth/death date.  I also figured I’d know it when I saw it.  Every few weeks I’d peruse the boards seeing if anything new or interesting popped up, and no dice.  My “Inkspiration” (get it?) board was about as full as it was going to get.  And thus this idea languished on my mental to-do list for a while, you know with all the other basic functional things I was struggling to do: get out of bed, shower regularly, maybe do a load of laundry, try watching less Netflix, it’s getting embarrassing, etc. etc. You know, the usual.

Then one Friday in April I was driving along A1A beachfront avenue a la Vanilla Ice and decided to just pop into the tattoo shop I’ve used before and like.  I’m making a concerted effort as of late to “just do it” (no Nike reference here) instead of waiting until the drive and/or motivation manifests itself, because the funny thing about depression/grief is, it basically never does and you just have to push through it. So I went in and started chatting with the gentleman about elements I’ve seen from Pinterest that I like and things I didn’t like and why I was getting this tattoo in the first place.  He seemed interested in this tattoo project and gave me some ideas right away that I hadn’t even considered.  He offered to draw up a design and asked when I’d like to come in for the session. Turns out, he had time the next day and if I didn’t jump on it, my schedule would preclude me from getting it for weeks (I’m very busy and important) so I said why the hell not and set the appointment.  I’ve noticed this is a pattern I’ve developed. While I don’t tend to make rash decisions (SEE: lack of new fancy car, move to Bali, opioid addiction or shaved head in year one of widowhood), I don’t have a problem pulling the proverbial trigger quickly once I’ve considered it for an acceptable amount of time.  So while I may have “considered” the tattoo for close to 2 years, I actually got it in under 24 hours.  Ironically enough, Bryan was not a fan of tattoos. Like at all. So perhaps my hesitation came from a subconscious feeling of wondering how he would feel about it. But too late! It’s my body my choice* I have to give a shout out to Marc at Florida Velvet Tattoo.  He did great work and came up with a design I love.

Editors Note: *Except in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri and other pending states.

tattoo 1

Just me, in total calm blissed-out zen and definitely not clenching a stress ball with excessive flop sweat.

I got the forget-me-not flowers because not only are they generally used to memorialize someone, they are also the flower used to represent SUDEP. Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy or SUDEP, is what Bryan passed away from.  I haven’t really talked a lot about it on here, but I do have plans to as I’m starting my pro-active phase of grief. I wouldn’t say I’m at the “acceptance” phase yet by any means, but this is a new one I made up unique to my “journey” (eye roll).  The swallow, or at least that’s what kind of bird I’ve decided it is, was just all around sweet to look at (just like my bae) but also links to the way I think Bryan still comes and visits me now and then.  You may call BS and that’s fine, I’m surprised I’m open to this stuff as well, but I saw a Medium about 4 months after Bryan died (a post for another day) and she said that Bryan had been trying to visit me and was tapping on my window as a bird.  I had noticed a bird had been coming to my window for what seemed like an excessive amount of visits to not get bird seed, but hadn’t put it together.  So for now, I’ll choose to believe it.

 

tattoo 2

I’m happy to say it healed nicely and has caused me to seriously expand my racer-back tank top collection, which I don’t hate.  Pro tip: when getting a tattoo make sure you wear black. Apparently they like bleed or something. Until next time, wittiest widow over and out.

My thoughts after, After Life

“Tony had a perfect life — until his wife Lisa died. After that tragic event, the formerly nice guy changed. After contemplating taking his life, Tony decides he would rather live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes. He thinks of it as a superpower — not caring about himself or anybody else — but it ends up being trickier than he envisioned when his friends and family try to save the nice guy that they used to know. “

after life

If you have Netflix (who doesn’t) and/or you’re a fan of British comedian Ricky Gervais, you might have heard of this new series, After Life. I was made aware of it by a friend, and I initially avoided it thinking it was a little too close to home.  Well I’m happy (?) to admit my preconceived notions were not affirmed.  This show gave me ALL them feels.  I laughed (a lot), I cried (also a lot), I got annoyed, angry, amused and felt peaceful towards the end of the show.  Perhaps what stood out to me the most was the authenticity with which Gervais wrote about spousal grief without having experienced it firsthand.  He tells a story that’s so perfect a mixture of the mundane daily life, the profound sense of loss, the internal struggle and isolation one feels, and finally those fleeting moments of joy or levity that don’t happen nearly enough.

 

My “grief journey” such as it is, has been a messier one.  As I settled into life as a widow and the “obligatory period of everyone feeling sorry for you and giving everything you say or do a total pass” ended, it was obvious that my journey was going to be a rough and dark ride.  I haven’t turned to Jesus. I haven’t spent my days being nothing but “grateful” for the time Bryan and I had together. I haven’t thrown myself into my work, or taken on some great life goal like running a marathon or starting a foundation, or going on a speaking tour, or any of the other myriad of “acceptable” grief rituals propagated throughout media and society. Instead, I’ve owned my general “zero fucks left to give-ness” with gusto! As I’ve said before, I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to be polite and and listen to your stupid story about your new gluten-free diet, or let assholic people’s behavior go unchecked. The tagline of the show “hell is other people” could have been written about me.  If my circumstances have taught me anything, it’s there’s so much wrong and injustice in the world and I won’t have it! And by that I mean, I won’t let it happen without first providing a pithy and cynical comment for the record.  So I feel like this is why After Life resonated so deeply with me.  Dr. F pointed out just the other day that perhaps it’s because watching a show that mirrored back a grief experience more similar to my own made me feel less alone on this journey.  And I think she’s right. Tony’s “superpower” is one I was also intimately familiar with. For a period of time I too thought it was suddenly so freeing not to sweat the small stuff and not give a fuck about what I said or did.  I had no fear of death and knew that was always an option in my back pocket.  While it didn’t end up being my superpower per se, I considered it my silver lining or consolation prize if you will, to the state I found myself in.  [Side Bar: Bryan HATED the phrase “per se” so I just cringed when I wrote it. Sorry B! RIP. much love] Tony’s also got that one thing that keeps him from completely going off the proverbial ledge: a dog named Brandy.  His wife loved that dog and Brandy’s a loyal companion, so the least he can do is take care of the dog in honor of his wife’s wishes (which you see periodically throughout the show).  I think that’s such an important aspect of grief too.  While you’re “in it” you’ve got to have someone or something that keeps you grounded in reality and keeps you going. It’s nearly impossible if you don’t.  It can be anything, a hobby you’ve always loved, a pet, a person (but that can be tricky), an event you’re looking forward to, or maybe just the will to see it through.  For me, I think it was a Katy Perry concert I’d planned months in advance–we can unpack at another time–and maybe the stubborn desire to not accept that my life would end on such an unceremonious fart.  Even when I was at peace with being done, something would just say “yeah, but fuck that. that would be so lame to let this beat you.”

after life headstone

Good Dog

Ricky Gervais has commented publicly that nothing he’s ever done in his years-long career has had this much of a reaction or positive and intense response. Not even The Office (crazy I know! But I think the American one is better, oops)! He’s been reading comments on social media and is writing a second season. I don’t usually tweet, @, or comment on the LinkedIn profiles (that’s still a thing right?) of celebrities, but in the last week since finishing the show, I let him know what this show has meant to me and to thank him for “getting it”.  It’s one thing to find a movie, show, book, album etc. that resonates with you and inspires you to be great; it’s a much rarer feat to find that same connection when you’re at your lowest and some piece of mainstream media is willing to get in the trenches with you.

A Dissertation on Women Who Publicly Complain About Their Husbands, Ferguson et al, 2019

Don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay I guess I shall elaborate if I expect this to ever get published in any kind of research journal of fine repute. This is my less than subtle, bitter way of saying I’ve got no time for women who think it’s cute and forms camaraderie to complain about all their husbands’ mundane shortcomings in a very public forum, i.e. a kid’s birthday party where he is not helping out enough. I. AM. NOT. HERE. FOR. IT.  Once, I tagged along to a birthday party for my nephew and was horrified by what I saw, heard, smelled, and tasted! Aside from the fact that kids’ birthday parties nowadays have to somehow be a social event for the parents as well by forcing them to stay the entire 4 hours (barf), these kids are spoiled beyond belief! This party might as well have been a soft opening for the next Cirque de Soleil show. What happened to a slip n’ slide and some pizza from Little Caesar’s? But that’s a post for another time.  What I encountered was a privileged white woman in a gaudy McMansion running around frazzled and talking mad shit about her husband, who was casually watching football.  Now I’m not defending the lazy, chauvinist guy on the couch, but I am defending the fact that she chose to marry him and she got what she got. So frankly, if he does what he’s always done, you have no one to be mad at but yourself.  Plus, I assume he left the couch at least occasionally to go to work and pay for that structure that some people refer to as a house, but I thought was more an art installation depicting the housing crisis of 2007. Also, for the record, all of these tasks he wasn’t completing to her specifications were ridiculous and unnecessary. I’m pretty sure that if the green PJ Masks (some random kid shit) goes before the blue one, the party will survive.  Anyhoo, she then proceeded to gather all the hens, I mean moms, and me, around her giant granite kitchen island and roll her eyes and tell us what a loser he is and dick he’s being.  I had just met her that day, but was already over it, as it were, by the Trump sign I’d seen earlier in her front window. So I felt the need to say “yeah…but at least you have a husband.”  The silence was deafening.  I know that she knew my situation, but still thought I would delight in the take down of her beloved (it’s debatable). Well, false.  I promptly turned around and filled a glass with the signature cocktail (?) chosen for this 4 year old’s birthday party.

pj masks

The source of Trump Tammy’s ire.

While this is an extreme example, I find I notice the one off negative comments about spouses much more nowadays. And it really grinds my gears! Aside from the obvious lack of husband due to his permanent vacation, I can honestly say I’ve always found it ugly and never spoke about Bryan that way when we were together. Now my distaste is just turned up to 11. Of course we fought and of course he annoyed the crap out of me, but I didn’t think telling an acquaintance (or rando I just met at a party) how bad he was at loading the dishwasher was “fun” or even made him better at loading said dishwasher.  This is separate from confiding in close friends about relationship problems and bigger issues.  That serves a very important purpose, and I’m happy to be a sounding board for my friends to this day.  I just want people to take a step back sometimes and be thankful that he’s even there to yell at about how he laid the PJ Masks characters out so shittily in the first place. Oh, and keep it to yourself, because it’s frankly a boring conversation topic to begin with.  That is all.

Untitled Death Anniversary Post

Today. Today is the day that Bryan has officially been gone 2 years.  Sometimes it feels like it just happened yesterday and I’m right back in the shock, sadness, and chaos of those first few days.  Other times it feels like it was a dream you wake up from and have a hard time remembering the details.  It’s surreal to think about my life just 2 years and 1 day ago and how I don’t even recognize it, me, or people in that life.  There’s very little about Emily BBD (before Bryan’s death) that seems to have carried through to Emily ABD (after Bryan’s death).  Sure, I’m still “me” but for the most part I feel fundamentally changed in my core being.  This is something I have a hard time articulating.  Those that know both Emily BBD and Emily ABD will say sure, you’re still you, just sadder or maybe more cynical.  And while that’s true, I feel like it’s more than that.  I see the world differently.  I react to situations differently.  I care far less about what people think and what kind of impression I’m making, for better or worse.  It’s likely worse, but whatevs.

One the 1 year anniversary, we honored Bryan in a park he loved with a memorial celebration surrounded by friends and family.  It was healing and sad and genuine and gut wrenching, yet still had its funny moments.  I loved hearing stories about him before I came along from this childhood friends.  In a way it felt like I was still getting to know him.  Today there will be less pomp and circumstance, but I know that many people will be thinking about him, hopefully laughing a little bit and likely crying a lot.  In fact, I wrote this yesterday to allow for maximum “feeling my feels time”. #selfcare

bryan memorial

As my sophomore year of widowhood comes to a close, I can say with certainty that those who warned me it would be “harder” were right — sort of.  Maybe it’s just different. Year 1 is all about addressing the shock and surviving.  Year 2 is about getting down to the business of living and your “new normal” whatever the fuck that is.  It’s the mundane, boring existence that surrounds the majority of everyday life.  It’s maintaining a house, paying bills, running errands, going to work, seeing friends (when you can force yourself to leave the house)…except doing it all solo with this nagging pit in your stomach that’s there to constantly remind you of the void in your life.  Plenty of single people live happy and fulfilled lives. So I’m not knocking them at all.  In fact that was me for the majority of my twenties. I was out there doing it!  It’s just that now I have to do it while knowing what could have been and how it’s just sometimes easier with someone in your corner.

sad

When the shock wears off and the early stages of grief have ended, you gain a different perspective on your situation.  In this second year, I think it was less about that longing and acute missing Bryan feeling (don’t get me wrong, if that dude showed up today I’d be all over him like a spider monkey), and more about my anger and sadness at my life situation.  When I thought about myself as a “widow” and what that meant, it was no longer always “my husband is dead, WTF” like the first year.  It was more like “I feel lonely, angry, empty, annoyed” and an overall feeling of “I can’t be bothered” to be dealing with this life circumstance.  But SPOILER ALERT I did anyway. Yay me.   There’s also a sense in year 2 from those in your orbit that you should be moving on.  I’m here to give this PSA: there is no timeline on grief! Once a widow, always a widow.  And unless you’re a licensed professional or a widow/widower yourself, you have no authority to infer/imply/or flat out tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing or how I should be living. That’s just #FACTS.

phoenix

Possible tattoo idea??? Am I Right? [sidenote: those experiencing grief are not known for their rational decision making skills]

Also, in an exciting turn of events, and when I say “exciting” I really mean “daunting” and “triggering,” the anxiety and guilt that lay dormant for 18 months over how it all went down decided to rear its ugly mug, and I’ve been addressing my latent PTSD in this second year as well. FUN STUFF!  Sparing the details, I know on a rational level that I couldn’t have done anything to change the outcome, but when my brain decides to flash the scenes from the day, it’s pretty damn rough.  I don’t want to remember Bryan that way so I’m working through that bullshit with Dr. F.  Maybe the 3rd year is when I become a self actualized phoenix who rises from the ashes in a blaze of radiant color not yet seen by the human eye to say “Hello World! Here I am!”. Probably not. But hey, you never know.

Love you Bryan, mean it.  And you too, widowinos.

mebryanoct16

Music to Cry To: The Ultimate Widow Playlist

So it’s been a hot minute since I posted to the Widowino Universe.  Apologies, I was just experiencing some summertime sadness, laying on a flamingo float alone in my backyard pool staring up at the clouds.  Speaking of summertime sadness, sometimes I just like to chill and feel my feels while listening to sweet jams.  I’ve always found music to vibe with whatever mood I’m in, and ever since I was a newly minted driver cruising with windows down rocking out to Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 8, it’s been a meditative experience for me.  Bryan was the same way.  We made playlists for every experience, big or small.  Whether it was a kiss-themed playlist for our aptly named “Smooch Fest 2014” all the way up to allowing our wedding DJ zero creative license by giving him literally every song to play, music “rocked’ our soul.  So it seems right that I created a  new soundtrack for the shit-storm that is my current life.  I’ve been collecting songs for months, in anticipation of the ultimate sonic release and this post, of course.  So if you’ve been searching for the perfect melancholy blend of notes, look no more!  These are the ultimate songs to do the emotional heavy lifting.  Have you ever been crying in the mirror and thought I wish I had some equally depressing music right now? THESE are those songs!  Or maybe you’re on a train, not sure where it’s going, and while you rest your head against the rain covered window, you thought “you know what this cliched sad moment needs, a soundtrack”. Then you’ve come to the right place!  The playlist can totally be played on shuffle, but for the true emotional roller coaster, I suggest playing them in the order listed here.  Enjoy! (Note: for maximum enjoyment have a day, in the tub, with red wine and a good cry.  Make sure to stay in there long enough for the water to get cold and then ever so slowly submerge your head.  Lastly, tell yourself you did your best over and over.)

  1. On the Nature of Daylight — Max Richter.  If my life was a movie, this is the song that would have been playing while you watched me run up the stairs in slow motion and find Bryan.  The song that played while the EMTs pushed me out of the way as I was hysterical, still in slow motion.  The song that played while the phone fell to the ground in the foreground of the shot…yes, still in slow motion. Too morbid? I think you may be lost then, here let me direct you to a site that might be more your speed.  Now I just mostly listen to this song when I take my makeup off in front of my Hollywood vanity mirror in total darkness except for those 12 mirror bulbs illuminating my face and its suddenly aged (pronounced “age-ed”) wrinkles. I’m also wearing a chic mu mu a la Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard.  Interesting side note, I wear mu mus now. I’m really leaning in to this whole widow thing!  Sheryl Sandberg would be proud, on BOTH accounts.
  2. Life and Death — Paul Cardall.  This aptly named little diddy  has a lot of the great melodies you think of when something profound happens in life, or death…Oh I see what he did there!  Cardall actually wrote this song while facing his own mortality waiting for a heart transplant, and I think that really gives it the extra punch of authenticity, don’t you?  The crescendo is quite dramatic and good for solo train rides around the 3:45 mark.
  3. Fade Into You — Mazzy Star.  Everyone has that quintessential emo moment of their adolescence when they were feeling hella deep. Just me? Oh.  Well anyway, for me that moment was the slow dance prom scene in the highly underrated 1995 movie Angus. The popular girl had just given Angus some #realtalk about her bulimia and actually imperfect life and it was deep AF for my 10 yo self.  Point is, this is the song they dance to as prom king and queen.  Now that I’m old enough to actually understand its meaning, I think the lyrics are a solid metaphor for my feelings on losing my identity as part of an “us’ and a wife and how I need to forge a new identify. #barf
  4. To Build a Home — The Cinematic Orchestra.   This song was a must add to the playlist ever since I saw that crappy old crock pot spark and set those curtains aflame and then proceeded to lose my shit along with the rest of America.  If this is the song that’s played the moment the Pearson family’s life went up in literal and proverbial flames, then it’s good enough for me.  Of all the songs on my list, I think this one elicits the most single dramatic tears down my face.  I think of the future I won’t get with Bryan and the fact that I won’t get “to build a home” with him, like ever.
    this is us fire_1516940816229.PNG_76549928_ver1.0_900_675

    FYI: I store my crock pot in a certified clean room devoid of oxygen now.

     

  5. When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die– Moby.  If you’re surprised to see a Moby song on here, perhaps you’ve never heard of Moby.  The first line of this song is “Where were you when I was lonesome?” for pete’s sake!  It’s a question I ask a lot; maybe to myself and maybe to Bryan, depending on what you believe, but at this point I still have anger over him leaving me, and by all accounts, and Dr. F, that’s perfectly fine.  Also, I felt/feel like dying a lot, cold or otherwise, so this makes sense.
  6. Captain Phillips– Henry Jackman.  One thing I’ve always done is listen to movie scores while I need to concentrate and write and think.  I do it even while blogging! When I heard Jackman’s score in Captain Phillips, it moved me.  Maybe it was the majesty of Tim Honks, America’s hero (that’s his name right?) bringing the captain’s fear and anguish to life, but this song gives me the feels.  The tagline of the movie was “out here survival is everything” and most days I feel like I’m just surviving, so this tune was apropos.
  7. Born to Die — Lana Del Rey.  Fake lips and horrible live performances aside, I actually love Lana Del Rey.  This song epitomizes how I feel when I’m out pretending to the world to be “okay”.  It’s also got a zero fucks given vibe, which I must admit has been one of the few freeing things to come from the tar pit of my brain.
  8. Nothing Compares 2 U — Sinead O’Connor.  It’s totally been longer than 7 hours and 16 days since Bryan took his love away, but I do certainly sleep all day so at least that part of the song is accurate.  Plus this is a true oldie but goody when it comes to the lonely hearts club.  I’ve also considered shaving my head more than once over the last 18 months, and Sinead may or may not have been the inspiration.  Hey, a widow’s ideas can’t all be winners okay?? Bonus: The single dramatic tear game in the video is quite strong.
  9. The Cold — Exitmusic.   Another “cold” song.  I guess there’s only so many metaphors for sadness.  Lead singer Aleksa Palladino’s voice is haunting and how I envision I would sound if I had any talent.  This is the quintessential song for solitary staring off into the distance, perhaps by a body of water (dealer’s choice), or better yet headstone. True Story: this song came on while I was visiting Bryan at the cemetery.
  10. Habits (Stay High) — Tove Lo. This is the song I imagine would be the personification of my life, if I had gone down the vice route while dealing with grief.  I’m honestly a little bummed it didn’t happen for me, I hear opioids are all the rage right now.  But according to my extensive widow research since this is a blog of the highest journalist integrity, self medication and destructive decisions are a common part of many people’s grieving process.  So this song makes the list as an homage to my fellow widow divas currently laying over in Struggle City, and that’s just fine.
  11. Runnin (Lose It All) — Naughty Boy ft Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin.  If I lose myself, I lose it all.  That’s the theme of this anthem that Queen Bey sprinkled her magic dust all over.  It talks of loss, loneliness, and doing it all yourself, with a catchy beat to back it up.  They don’t call her a queen for nothing.
  12. Green Light — Lorde.  A little bit of anger, a little bit of hope, and lot of bad assness.  I wish I could “just get my things and just let go”.  In some ways I’ve done that already, but in many ways I’m waiting for my green light, stuck in neutral at that light that’s always red at that abandoned intersection.  Why can’t I just hit the gas and go?  What’s stopping me? Oh right, crippling depression.
  13. Elastic Heart — Sia.  I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart.  Grieving does nothing if not make you harder, better, faster, stronger©.  You start to see the world differently and you’re forever changed, as much as you may try to fight it.  I feel like Sia really gets me and my internal struggle here, so good job Sia.  P.S. How do we feel about Shia LeBeouf in the video? Oddly attractive and rugged? No? Yeah, me neither.
  14. All By Myself — Celine Dion.  You might be thinking…hmm safe choice.  Or “wow this one’s a little on the nose”.  And to you I say, don’t question Celine or my’s decisions ever! The reality of the situation is I am, in fact “all by myself” and I “don’t wanna be” anymore, sooooo yeah.  And who doesn’t love a good power ballad to sing into their ice cream/dinner spoon (hello 2:40 mark)?!
  15. Dancing On My Own — Robyn.  When I get there, this is the song I think will be my anthem when I’m at peace with my new life and I’m just out there, dancing on my own, and owning my dance.

So there you have it, music essential for being in your feelings.  I’ve got loads more but this post was taking longer to write than I felt like it should so that’s what you get!  Let me know what music gets you through hard times and makes you feel the feels!  I’ll make a B-sides soon with reader suggestions.

Not Guilty, but a “Griefy” Pleasure

So a funny (is that the right word?) thing happens when someone close to you dies.  My theory is, in an attempt to take a mental break from the 24/7 pit of despair that is your brain, you tend to become obsessed with random and often obscure hobbies, habits, or tasks.  For me, it’s MURDER PODCASTS.  I can’t explain it but in the months since Bryan 86’ed this living thing, I’ve become a subscriber, longtime listener, and no-time caller to not one, not two, not three (sensing a pattern?) but 12 murder-themed podcasts!  In my current state, I enjoy few things more than taking my lunch break in my car, blasting the air conditioning and listening to Karen and Georgia rehash their newest favorite murder.  I live a wild and crazy life right?

Some people find podcasts of this topic disturbing and/or morbid, and I can’t say I disagree, but I guess I’m going through a “Blue period” or something.  Although I highly doubt my blue period will yield anything as profound as what came out of Picasso’s (one semester of art history and I am impressive AF!).  I have to say though, I think we were on the same page when he painted Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms) because that’s me pretty much any time I’m in public. At work? sitting in a meeting freezing with a BRF and “folded arms”.  Waiting in line at Target? Switching from one foot to the other because I most definitely have to pee, with “folded arms”.  Laying on the table getting my eyebrows waxed? Pursing my lips in agony with “folded arms”.  You get the idea.

pablo picasso blue period femme

She’s slaying #notimpressed

But I digress.  What was I talking about? Oh right, muuurrrrddddeeeeerrrr! Or redrum if you’re dyslexic.  [This blog is certified compliant Section 508 of the ADA].  Anyhoo, I can’t explain it totally, but the things that help me forget about my current life circumstances even for a brief moment tend to be dark; unless it’s “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix, but that’s really universal.  Perhaps I feel less hopeless about the future seeing resilience that comes from others who’ve been through some shit and come out on the other side.  Maybe it’s the comfort of knowing, “well damn, at least my life is not as fucked up as that one!”.  Or it could be the lessons learned.  It’s a sick, sad world out there and I believe knowledge is power.  How was the Golden State Killer finally identified? Does Iceland have the death penalty?  Why was my sorority so crazy about security in our college town?  All of these questions and more can be answered, in the wonderful world of murder podcasts!  [Answers: 1) familial DNA match from ancestry.com subscriber 2) no 3) because Ted Bundy murdered 2 women in my sorority’s chapter house at FSU 40 years ago]

I know some people, including my mother especially, would rather I not dwell on the dark arts (only Harry Potter you’ll ever get here), but until I see the world as a place worth living in, I doubt my satisfaction from these stories will lessen.  If nothing else, it provides an escapism that I’m yet to find in anything else.  And for the record, plenty of “happy” well-adjusted people listen to them everyday. So maybe check out some of my faves, in no particular order:

  • My Favorite Murder where I learn how to stay sexy and not get murdered.  It’s hilarious and educational!
  • Dirty John This took the world by storm and had a crazy twist.  Bonus points for the sense of superiority you’ll feel knowing this would NEVER happen to you.  Even my mom liked this one!
  • Serial Killers I mean yeah, the title is pretty much a dead (get it?) giveaway
  • Up and Vanished The case of the disappearance of Tara Grinstead starts out “colder than Alaska” but the story of the people in this small Georgia town sucks you in.  Aside from the ridiculously annoying millennial host, they actually solved a murder case in real time and that’s pretty awesome.
  • Sword and Scale  Likely the darkest of the bunch but also the most factual and in-depth.  I never understood the doll baby on the logo though…

 

That’s all I got for you, fellow or future murderinos (that’s an industry term).  Until next time, I’ll just be widowing out listening to stuff about murder.

The Holidays…Now Fraught With Melancholy!

Mother’s Day 2018 was just a couple weeks ago, and I made my not-obligatory-but-really-obligatory-because-the-passive-aggressive-guilt-isn’t-worth-it-if-I-don’t-go trip home to Virginia.  It was…fine.  The weather was beautiful and brunch was delicious, but I couldn’t help but notice the overall air of melancholy I felt the entire time.  The house was so quiet, the wifi questionable, and I felt simultaneously lonely and longing for alone time.  Grief is wack like that.

Going home doesn’t make me happy the way it used to.  After my dad died in 2011, the first holidays were very shall I say, “dark”.  Literally and figuratively.  Like for real, my dad put up all the Christmas lights a la Clark Griswold, and you know my mom wasn’t climbing on the ladder to hang 27 wreaths on every window of the colonial I grew up in.  His passing was Thanksgiving Day so those first few holidays were a total blur/nonexistent, but by Christmas 2012 an attempt at normalcy was made.  I say attempt because I wouldn’t consider it a rockin’ around the Christmas tree success.

kevin mcallister

Home Alone with cardboard friends would have been better

As I sat in the living room by the tree with my brother and mom, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was.  No music playing, no extended family or friends like years past, the gifts just seemed not as exciting, and as if we were just going through the motions of opening them.  I remember thinking, I guess this is what family is now, and being depressed at said thought.

A year later I was dating Bryan and I was excited to go home, celebrate the holiday with him, and meet the clan that forged him in the fires of Moordor! j/k he was just a normal baby j/k he did actually weight 11 pounds! Anyway, his family has always been very close, more close than mine, and they did the holidays up right.  His sister had just had a baby and Bryan was quite proud of his new nephew.  Throughout the time we were together, I started to like the holidays again.  He definitely influenced me as I saw how happy he was to spend time with family, cook great food, and exchange thoughtful presents.  When Mother’s and Father’s Days came, he dutifully picked out charming, hilarious, and loving cards, and ensured the Omaha Steaks for his pop came on time.  (Getting weekly Omaha Steaks mailers became a joke in our house after that. They are relentless about the meats)!  Celebrating the holidays with Bryan was just more relaxed, joyful, and we started to make our own traditions.  Suddenly, I no longer associated the word “obligation” with holidays.  There we were, just living the dream, putting up tiny Christmas trees,  passing out on White Russians at Thanksgiving, and shotgunning beers at the Grand Canyon on the 4th of July!  But then, and I don’t know if you’ve already heard, he DIED.  What a jerk.  In the aftermath, holiday celebrations were frankly the last thing on my mind, as I was transported back to that pointless melancholy feeling but times a million.  I couldn’t understand how people could look forward to those days that seemed like a waste of time, money, and mental energy.

grand canyon

America’s Birthday 2015

I still generally feel that way about designated days for celebration.  So I as I flew home and sat at a spring brunch to honor Mom, it stung extra hard to know that Bryan could no longer honor his mom whom he loved so much, and that I was once again a single lonely woman without the family I made for myself.  The crazy thing about this widowhood is that it never stops surprising you in new and shitty ways!  On the surface I wouldn’t expect Mother’s Day to be a trigger day (I use that word because I”m woke, y’all), but it inevitably was.  I made a point to visit with his mom and stepmom and send them each a card from the both of us, because I know that’s what Bryan would have done.  It was great to see them, and I’m thankful we are so close.  I just wish every damn holiday wasn’t so hollow. Wittiest Widow, over and out.

National Widows Day

…Is today! Shout out to all my widowed ladies, hollar!!! You know we keeps it mad real sans hubbies!

Anyway, take a minute to reach out to the lonely hearts today and let them know they’re not forgotten.  Also, while this organization is sometimes a little too touchy feely for me, they generally do good work! (Although I’m a way better blogger than their existing community 🙂 ).

national widows day

Hope For Widows

My Life in an Alternate Universe

I often think about what I’d be doing at that moment if my life hadn’t decided to Thelma and Louise itself off a cliff, and I didn’t have to now live in a world I don’t recognize.  I like to think that the Emily living in an alternate universe (AU) truly is killing it (oops) and everything’s just coming up roses for her.  Bryan and I had big plans for our future, and we couldn’t wait to get started! And by big plans I mean getting excited for a domestic DINK life resembling a lot of stuff white people like.  But you know that’s cool, because I was fine being basic, and I’m pretty sure AU Emily is too!

I’m pretty sure Bryan will be making tacos for dinner with his homemade pico de gallo and we’ll Netflix and chill® (for real, we’re boring and married) with our mini pig Jean Ralphio Saperstein aka “Raffi”.  I look over and see something like this:

You know, the usual.  We’re also busy decorating our recently purchased starter home that we bought in [insert east coast city here] because you know we be about that HGTV lyfe son!  Also, our jobs are totes fulfilling and we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, natch.  Anyhoo, oh it’s the weekend in the AU! Must be time for date night.  Look, here we are now just enjoying cocktails and wedded bliss at our local farm to table watering hole! No bigs, just AU Emily and Bryan living their best lives.
mebryancoopersmith

Man, we love getting up early on the weekends…but only because we choose to! We’re DINKs remember? No kids to dictate our sleeping schedule here!  On this particular day, we’re going for a hike.  Lots of #selfie opps to let people know we care about nature and shit.  Also, look how cute we are!

mebryanmountains

Man, I just love us!  Always finding ways to just be happy being together.  I’m so lucky to have met the love of my life, and so lucky he’s ALIVE and well here beside me! I’m so #blessed.  This year has flown by I tell ya.  It’s time to get the Christmas card ready.  Can you believe we’ve been married a whole year?  Well one down, a lifetime to go!  Nothing could EVER change that plan!  Oh wait.

I don’t know guys. What do you think? Matching sweaters too much?  You’re right, of course they aren’t!

mebryanchristmas

Great! Nailed it!  Now it’s time to settle in to a relaxing holiday season, just the two of us doing whatever we want…just like we planned it.  Life is perfect!  But man, all this relaxing is making me tired.  Bryan and I def need a vacay STAT.  Let’s see, someplace warm and sandy obvi.  We just really need to unwind and escape the cold weather.  This Seasonal Affective Disorder is really getting to me this year.  “Alexa, make me an appointment with my therapist for January 5th when I’m back from St. Lucia”.  Sorry, just a little multi-tasking for this modern wifey.

mebryanstlucia

Sigh. St. Lucia was great.  I really wish we could have stayed a full two weeks instead of just 10 days though, you know?  I think I need a vacation from my vacation amiright??? I’ll go take a long hot bath, while the old ball and chain makes his famous white chicken chili.  I don’t know what it is, he just NEVER lets me in kitchen!  He’s a quirky one that Bryan, teehee!

widowlife

So, yeah, sorry I think I just blacked out for a minute.  I was too busy daydreaming about my AU self and what she’s up to.  Oh, I wrote it all down? Great.  But in all seriousness, can you tell I’m just a teensy bit jelly about AU Emily and her totally awesome totally normal life?  In reality, I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Radford, Virginia (don’t bother looking it up) with Doritos dust on my shirt, a wicked case of late onset chin acne, and Day 1 period cramps.  You know, every girl’s dream! Wishing I could FaceTime Bryan from my business trip so he could “kiss me through the phone” (remember that song?!) and make fake fart noises that he blamed on Raffi.  That, my friends, was really my best life.  Hopefully once this chin acne clears up, I can finally get that modeling contract I’ve been vying for.  I sent an email to becomeamodel@model.model so I’ve got a good feeling! In the mean time, send some Proactiv. K thanks, bye.

 

A Listicle of Things I Learned in Year One!

Hey Guys,

Wittiest Widow here, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the great online publications of the highest journalistic integrity (I’m looking at you Buzzfeed!), it’s that people LOVE listicles! As I enter my sophomore year of widowhood, I’ve tried to reflect on the lessons I’ve been forced to learn.  I won’t say there’s any meaning to what’s happened, and if one more person says “everything happens for a reason” I will promptly ask them to jump off a bridge, but I’d like to hope I’ve made some progress.  So here’s a nifty list of some tidbits I’ve learned as a widow of 395 days.

  1. Apparently I’m “really strong”.  I wish this meant that when your hubby dies, you suddenly gain hulk-like strength and can bench press 300 pounds (is that a lot? I clearly don’t work out), but in actuality it’s the “emotional strength” you gain. Bor-ing.  Apparently adrenaline-car-lifting-strength is only reserved for mama bears, or tiger mothers, or whatever other maternal animal analogy people use these days.  Anyhoo, not going to lie, the first days and weeks after Bryan kicked the bucket were a total blur.  I didn’t know how I’d survive, and I sure as hell had no desire to.  That’s just a fact. (Disclaimer: Not being on this earthly plane is something I fantasize a lot about these days, so if that makes you uncomfortable, sorry. K thanks bye).  I was told just the other day by a dear friend who stayed with me that first week, that I didn’t even have the strength to eat a grape. A single grape.  I mean WTF?! First, I love grapes! And second, man that’s weak.  I think it was just an overall lack of will.  Everything, and I mean everything seemed pointless.  Why do people shower? Why do people eat? Conversation? It’s for the birds! Going to a job, who needs it?! All this to say, life was totally unbearable.  I still don’t know how I progressed, except that time is the only constant and it just kept moving forward.  And, I think, because I just had to.  I had people counting on me, even if I wasn’t counting on myself.  I still find that grating to me in my weaker moments, but for now I’m faking this whole living thing until I make it!
  2. My Ride or Die (get it?) Crew is different.  As you can imagine, I totally go to therapy (can’t you tell how well adjusted I am?), and “Dr. F” has taught me a lot about what they in the biz call “secondary losses”.  Basically, not only do you lose the love of your life, but you can lose a lot of other awesome stuff you never even imagined! For me, it was my house, my pet, my future, my sense of self worth, and some of my inner circle, just to name a few.  I had heard it before and can certainly attest to it after experiencing it first hand, but you’re filled with gratitude and surprise by the people who come out of the woodwork to be supportive; and totally hurt by those you thought you could count on who come up short.  Overall, I’m lucky to have such a wide and supportive network of friends, especially my sorority sisters, high school friends, Rotaractors, and great coworkers.  I can never thank them enough for the notes, messages, flowers, funny care packages, offers for happy hours or manicures, and persistent phone calls I’ve received over the last year.  Whenever I’m feeling particularly alone or hopeless, I’ll get a “Happy Galentine’s Day” card in the mail from a friend who I haven’t actually seen in years.  The reverse of that also happens however.  Sometimes those closest to you can hurt you the most.  Obtuse is a word I’ve come to use a lot.  I know that people’s emotional intelligence runs the gamut, but it’s still surprising when your bff would rather go to an Orange Theory class than sit with you 3 days after the funeral when you can barely eat that aforementioned grape.  Or when you talk about your sudden and great pain and someone compares it to the death of their cat (insert eye roll emoji here).  My goal throughout this grieving process is to be honest and let the emotions come as they come.  I’m not fine, so I shouldn’t say I am, right?  Well you’d be surprised (or maybe not) just how many people would prefer I say I’m fine.  I can tell my grief is uncomfortable for some, and I know it’s distanced me from some friendships–these friendships being the ones you think will step up when something like this happens but in reality the exact opposite happened.  I try not to feel jealous and post a nasty comment when on the 1 year anniversary of Bryan’s death, you don’t acknowledge it and instead post pictures of your latest vacation.  But I digress.  We’re all just out there trying to live our lives, and I know everyone else’s lives move forward, even when mine stands still.  But I can’t pretend it doesn’t sting.  #Truthiness
  3. That shitty, heart-stopping, emotional pain doesn’t really lessen.  Although I shower regularly (okay semi-regularly), and only think about dying 5 times a day as opposed to constantly, the pain hasn’t really lessened.  I would say it’s different, perhaps more familiar.  Obviously a year has helped me get harder, better, faster, stronger, but I’m not hard AF yet.  I cry less, but things still regularly set me off.  Example: I partake in a unique form of emotional cutting on a daily basis by checking out my Time Hop app.  I get to look at all the awesome things I was doing 1, 2, 3 etc. years ago and compare it to the hellscape that is me now.  I don’t know why I do it, but I just can’t stop.  The first step is admitting you have a problem right???  Things I “look forward” to are always disappointing.  I used to see commercials of a woman looking sad in a board meeting and then staring sadly at her unused pottery wheel as a way to illustrate her depression.  Then she got the right pills and was back to banging out bowls and mugs!  While I’d never make pottery, and I’ve always looked sad in meetings, I can relate to the loss of the interest and overall apathetic attitude.  On my best day, my mantra is “blerg”.  On my worst days, I can’t even think of one that’s bad enough.  I miss Bryan so much it hurts–yes physically hurts.  In the first months my hair fell out, my skin was crazy, my body ached all over, I had heart palpations, and I felt and looked like I aged 10 years over night.  I guess in a lot of ways did. Blerg.
  4. It’s Emily 2.0 Now.  So suffering a massive and traumatic loss changes you man.  It just does. Kind of like prison, or so I’ve been told.  The Emily that was here for 31 1/2 years peaced out the day Bryan did.  I can’t totally explain it, except to say I feel different and look at the world differently, and Dr. F has totes validated my feelings so I know it’s for real.  There was a time I was angry about this.  I liked who I was!  I didn’t want to be different!  I may not have been totally self actualized, but I generally got up every morning and felt okay about me and the decisions I made.  Now I feel like I’m stumbling through life and failing left and right, or I just don’t care at all.  Not a great way to be, and just like Stella, I need to get my groove back.  I’ll just have to accept that it will be a different groove.
  5. I miss Bryan MORE now.  Can you believe it?!  After some of the initial shock fades and your constant babysitters are around less, you have to get down to the business of living solo. Ugh.  The reality of life without him has set in.  And what is life really but a long, lonely march towards death?? Maybe not for you, but I mean at least for me it is.  I’m sure in a hilarious ironic twist I’ll live to be like 90 years old.  That’s a looooong time without your bestie and loooong time not living the life you guys had planned together.  I struggle with the “one day at a time” thing, given that I’m a planner by nature and trade.  I take in the totality of life without Bryan and it gets overwhelming to think about.  I think about all the inside jokes we’ll never share again.  All the stupid, hilarious conversations we’ll never have. All the road trips we’ll never take.  All the houses we’ll never buy and fix up.  All the TV we’ll never watch together.  My God, the television might really be the worst.  I love Netflix. That is all.
  6. Misty water colored memories.  I’m scared sometimes, by just how fast the memories fadeI’m sure it doesn’t help that I have widow brain (that’s real thing, Google it).  I want to remember all the things that made Bryan my hubby all at once, and it’s just impossible.  Sometimes I watch videos of Bryan, just to keep his voice on my mind.  This summer, my stupid phone deleted all my saved voicemails one day and I had a meltdown at a Firehouse Subs.  That was fun.  But when a random memory does pop in my head, I’m diligent about writing it down.  These are things I hope stay in my head when I no longer remember who I am or how to go to the bathroom on my own.  I could just drift off to the memory of Bryan singing Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” just because.
  7. I’m Like the Most Empathetic Person Ever Now.  Experiencing Bryan’s death and the shit storm that’s followed has caused me to see the world in a new lens.  When I hear of someone who’s lost a parent, spouse, child etc.,  I don’t just feel sad for them, I’m shattered all over again.  My pre-widow self just wasn’t capable of this higher level of sympathy and empathy, but now it’s like a super power y’all.  Not that it’s a super power I particularly wanted, but I actually feel useful sometimes when these new, raw grievers talk to me and I can honestly relate or just be there to listen.  I’m acutely aware of the “well what the hell do I do now?” feeling that comes after the funeral, cards, and casseroles stop coming.  So I try to keep those grieving on my mind and reach out.  You’ll never know what it’s truly like unless you’re a part of this club that nobody ever wanted to join, but if you do, I hope you support the other members.
  8. Just cut the bullshit.  Ain’t nobody got time for that! When you’re all exposed in the pit of despair, you get skilled at prioritizing what’s worth emotional energy and what’s not.  Just call me Imperator Furiosa because I’m a woman on a mission and I’ve got very little patience! Since I have so little energy to begin with, I can’t waste it on the bitchy woman at the grocery store, or the dick head that cuts me off on my commute home.  I just tell them to have a #blessed day and be on my way.  Okay maybe I still flip the bird, but I’m not still thinking about it 10 minutes later.  Baby steps. I’m still grieving!  One day I”ll get there.  I also put less credence into what I see on social media in terms of comparing my life and goals to other people’s highlight reel.  Everybody has got shit they’re going through, and it would be nice if we could just acknowledge it and be cool with it.

So that’s that.  These are just some knowledge nuggets I’ve accumulated these last 395 days.  I know I’ve got more to learn, and maybe I’ll update as I stay buckled in to this vomit-inducing carnival ride of widowhood that I just can’t seem to get off of.  Any of you have pearls of wisdom to share?  Ideas for posts? Be sure to comment!