Peace of Mind and Tempered Expectations

ExpectationsI received an email a few weeks ago from a reader and I was stunned into speechlessness.  So stunned, that I didn’t reply because I couldn’t form the proper words.  I shared the email with a friend over Thanksgiving and she insisted that I write about it here.  It went as follows:

“Hi MrsTDJ, I’m a long time reader and I wanted to express my condolences on the death of your husband.  From your stories, I kinda feel like I know him and you.  All the best to you in the future.  While I respect that this is your blog to write what you want, and I know you’re hurting, I’m curious as to when you think you’ll write some funny stories again.  You used to keep me and my office rolling.  It helped to pass the work day.  Everything you’ve written lately has been a little sad.  Take care.”

Really??????  A backazzed compliment????? Hey widow chick, sorry for your loss, but um, when can you start entertaining me again with funny stories???  Whoo saaaaaaaa!!!  Anyway, that little diddy has prompted me to take a step in the direction of cleansing all the extraneous stuff from my mind and heart.

I’ve learned many new things in the last few months about myself and about people.  I’ve been reminded just how amazing and special my family is.  My friend circle has shown me more love and support than I could have imagined.  I’ve been encouraged and humbled by the kindness that my online communities have blessed me with.  And, on the flip side, I’ve learned that the world keeps spinning and people have returned to their daily lives.  Without malice or evil intent, folks have categorized my “situation” as “finished”.  With open hearts, they called, emailed, visited, attended services and then life kept going.  Remarkably, there are those who have surprised me in the best ways – being there in ways I couldn’t have predicted or imagined.  Painfully, those who I wouldn’t have expected to pull disappearing acts when I needed them most did just that.  Almost 6 months have gone by since my husband passed away, and there are people who haven’t reached out to me in 5 and a half.

I  wanted to not talk or write about the hurt and disappointment, but it’s real and I must.  In therapy we discuss allowing people to take your power and govern your emotions.  I’m taking my power back.  By allowing myself to write, I am releasing parts of what pains me.  I’ve expressed my appreciation to those that have been there for LittleTDJ and I, both personally and through my writing.  I’ve been less vocal about those that haven’t because I didn’t want to air dirty laundry or bring negativity into my writing.  However, I’ve been holding onto tiny scabs that are starting to fester.  I can’t allow that to happen.  Minute to minute, I must draw on strength I didn’t know I possessed to complete life’s most basic tasks, such as bathing, driving and saying hello to a coworker.  The memory of my husband’s smile pushes me to accept the collective prayers and blessings of my circle in order to give LittleTDJ the best version of myself that I can muster.  I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to fathom how hard it is for me to string together a sentence.  To that end, I must acknowledge then banish those that don’t wish me well from my life.

I’m not the same person that I was prior to June 9th and I know I’ll never be that exact person again.  I am a version of that woman and some people aren’t comfortable with that.  I saw the quotation above and I realized that’s what I had been doing.  Subconsciously, I was imposing my expectations on others because of the kind of friend, cousin, niece, aunt, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law that I was.  That stops now.  I’m disappointed in the words and actions of some friends and most of my in-law family as they have shown that they do not have the time nor interest to invest in LittleTDJ and I.  There are those who have shown me, without exception, that LittleTDJ and I are not important to them.  I’m hurt, yet not mortally wounded.  I’m owning my emotion and moving forward.  Amazingly enough, I am relieved.  Relieved to see the cards on the table and realize where people stand.  They have taken the guesswork out and cleared space in my life that they probably shouldn’t have had anyway.  Some will read my writings today and take my message very, very personal.  I can’t control the reaction or interpretation that anyone may have to my thoughts, nor will I try.  If you think this is about you, it probably is.  On this journey, authenticity and vulnerability have been a source of healing for me, so I will continue to speak about much of what I face.

LittleTDJ and I are surrounded by love and from this moment forward, I am actively choosing NOT to allow any more space, time or heartache be wasted on those who aren’t in our corner for the right reasons.  Thanks to all who continue to shower LittleTDJ and myself with love and prayer!

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The Passing of the 9’s

Funny how things take on a clarity that’s not apparent until you are in the midst of the situation.  I gave myself way too much credit and I was overconfident about my ability to control my emotions.  I made a conscious decision that I would not mourn the anniversary of my husband’s death.  Nope, WOULD NOT DO IT.  I told myself that it was foolish.  Although June 9 changed everything, I didn’t want that date to paralyze me for eternity.  Yeah, go ahead and shake your heads.  “Denial” is more than just a long azz river in Egypt, right?  Somehow I thought that I could actually control the dates upon which I felt the most pain.  Riiiiiiiiiiiight. I was even so bold as to tell my therapist that I wasn’t counting the days since MrTDJ passed away.  I’m a liar.  A naïve, well-intentioned liar, but still a liar.  Little did I know that I’d have not the teensiest bit of control and would be at the mercy of my calendar.   I have not taken an actual calendar and marked off the days since his death, but my mental calendar is clicking and ticking.

I keep a personal journal and thank goodness it is the only witness to the daily arc of my thoughts.  It’s clear to me now that I was altered and unable to honestly acknowledge that there was a connection between my waves and the 9th day of each month.  I awoke this morning at 1:41 and was compelled to pull out my journal.   Hmm, me thinks maybe there is a pattern.  On July 9, I had a dental appointment for a crown repair.  Ugh, bad day, no wonder I was in such a terrible mood.  Riiiiiiiiight.  August 9 found me calling into work because I’d barely slept two hours in the three previous nights.  I cancelled plans with friends at the last minute on Sunday, September 9 because I just didn’t have the energy.  Although October 9 came on the heels of Columbus Day and a three-day weekend, I simply couldn’t get it together to do or say much to anyone.  And now, it’s 3:23 am on November 9 and I can’t stop crying.  The 9th of each month has done just what I unrealistically denied it could do – slam me against a brick wall and send me spiraling down the rabbit hole.

I know not how to change the course.  It’s as if I build myself up from the 10th of the month and then subconsciously, my defenses weaken around the 7th of the following month and by the 9th, I’m drowning again.  I think of my husband hundreds of times each day and the good memories have not yet tempered the stinging ache of having lost him.  That’s not to say that I don’t smile and laugh, because I do.  Undoubtedly as the 9th approaches, my efforts to sustain a sense of normalcy seem to be in vain.  At some point today, I know that I will drift off in the middle of a conversation, stop watching during the middle of a television show or completely check out during a meeting at work.  During that time, I will relive, with laser like precision and accuracy, the last 2 hours of my husband’s life.  Those 120 minutes run through my mind in about 7 or 8 minutes.  The moments play like snapshots in a photo montage and then there is a pause.  The pause makes way for our last, laughter filled conversation as we awaited the arrival of the paramedics.  Snapshots again.  Then another pause for MrTDJ’s last interaction with LittleTDJ.  And then the FEELING.

I’ve never blogged in detail about the events of that morning and I doubt I ever will.  I’ve journaled them and talked to my therapist and inner circle about them.  What I will share is the FEELING that I experienced.  I was standing on the front porch of our home when my husband made his transition.  At that very moment, I KNEW.  Minutes before a paramedic came to update me on his status, I KNEW.  Well before we traveled to the hospital and he was officially pronounced, I KNEW.  We’d shared a heart for 2 decades and gone through too much for me NOT to know.  I FELT his spirit pass through my body followed by the gentlest of breezes blowing across my cheeks.  I KNEW because I FELT the essence of him hug me tightly, and then release me.  I was absorbed in the stillness as I FELT him float to the heavens above me.  The tears didn’t come until much later.  Dare I say that the moment was both heart wrenching yet peaceful.  It’s hard for me to express in words.  When I think of it, a line from the Sarah McLachan song, Angel, passes through my mind.  “In the arms of the angels, fly away from here”.

I feel him all the time, but on the 9th, everything deepens.  The 9th marks another month that I’ve had to survive here without him.  Maybe someday, the 9th won’t send me straight into darkness without passing go.  Tonight, I’ve got plans with friends and I’m trying to prep myself to hold it together.  I know how I’d like today to go, but the universe has offered me no assurances.   Five months into my new normal and it still seems like I’m living somewhere in the Land of Oz.  And even the Land of Oz would be ok if MrTDJ could get here.

I’m Guest Posting at Black and Married with Kids

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Ronnie and Lamar Tyler, the creators of the site, Black and Married with Kids.  I’d been a reader and fan of the site for quite a while.  Once Ronnie and I chatted, it seemed that I might be able to offer a unique perspective to the BMWK audience.  I’m honored and humbled at the opportunity to share my love.  The post is something that I wrote in July, about a month after my husband’s death.  I’d love if you’d head on over there and check it out.  If you’ve already read it, read it again.  =)  While you’re there, browse the site and I’m sure you’ll find other great things. 

“The Intersection of Grace and Grief: How Grieving for My Husband is a Daily Struggle”

Celebrating Him In My Way

Today, October 20 would have been my husband’s 37th birthday.   As you read this, I’ll be about 2300 miles from home allowing the sun, sand, blue water and wind to have their way with me.  The idea of tackling yet another “first” made me sick to my stomach.  I knew that I would not be ok if I didn’t do something a bit outside the box during the period surrounding his birthday.

I’ve always loved my birthday.  Growing up as an only child, my parents always went above and beyond to make sure that my day was extra special.  When I met my husband in high school, he didn’t quite have the same love for his birthday.  Say what???  Hmph, so it became my mission to make him love it.  I started right away by decorating his locker when we were in 12th grade.  Got ’em and he was a birthday fool after that!

Throughout the years, we celebrated most holidays rather modestly, regardless of our financial picture.  But, when it came to birthdays, we tended to give those a little extra pizzazz.  Before his passing, I had not yet made any concrete decisions regarding what to do for his birthday, but knowing that it would be on a Saturday, I toyed with the idea of a weekend away.  After his death in June, my birthday in July and our anniversary in September, I was firmly set to travel for his birthday.  I could not bear the thought of the encroaching sadness for a day he would never get to enjoy.

Day by day, I exist by counting the seconds and minutes until an hour has passed, then another and another.   I’ve been grieving and pressing forward in my own way.   This weekend, I’m embracing the peace of getting away and breathing.  I’ve not “stopped” for very long since June and I haven’t allowed the stillness to settle into my being.  I have no agenda bar the single activity that I will do as a salute to my hubby.  He had a love for motorcycles and ATV’s, so I’ll be off-roading on an ATV as a birthday shout out to him.   I surely wish that we were riding together, but I’ll have to settle for his memories.

One Last Gift

Happy Anniversary to my love!  Today would have been our 8th wedding anniversary.  For once, I’m almost at a loss for words.  Imagine that, right?  The one that usually has too much to say can’t compose her thoughts to say something cohesive and profound.  Wait, wait, I said I was almost at a loss but I’ll keep it short.

I miss my husband more and more with each passing day.  I suppose that sounds cliché, but it’s true.  This season of “first FILL IN THE BLANK without him” days has been going full steam ahead, so my birthday in July and today, our anniversary hit especially hard.   In general, my husband was the more spontaneous one and he was also a master in the art of procrastination.  Those two traits worked in tandem, so normally he was scrambling the day before or day of a holiday and saying words that I used to dread but had come to accept and laugh at over the years, “What do you want for Christmas/your birthday/Mother’s Day/our anniversary?”  URGH!!!!   Occasionally, he was ahead of the game, but it was rare.   I supposed he was working to improve his track record because he’s now gotten two over on me.

The first was for my birthday on July 2.  Although my husband passed away on June 9, there was a package waiting for me upon my return to work in late July.  It had arrived on my birthday and my friends and coworkers were unsure whether to tell me about it.  It was a birthday gift from my husband.  An item that I had been eyeing and window shopping for almost a year.  And yes, in the corner of my girlfriend’s office, I was reduced to pile of tears.

The second was last night.  As I was searching for one of my favorite wedding pictures to add to the blog today, I came across a folder on my husband’s laptop that brought me to my knees.  Yes, actually caused my knees to buckle and I cried like a baby, while on the floor in front of the desk in my bedroom.   After getting engaged, my husband jumped into wedding planning with more enthusiasm than I thought he’d have.  He was excited about the next chapter of our lives together and it showed.   We were surrounded by the love of family and friends, and we relished in every single moment of it.  My only teeny weeny regret was not having things videotaped.  I’ve expressed this to my husband over the years and this year it seems, he sought to do something about it.  The folder that I found contained a wedding “video” of sorts – over 400 of our wedding photos, set to a soundtrack with some of our favorite songs.  I can tell that he planned to do more because of the unfinished/unpolished ending, but the part that he did finish is so very precious to me.

I decided to share a few of the photos along with the intro song.   For those that know me IRL, you’ll recognize many of the pics as I prepared something similar for my husband’s services in June.  This song, “Stars” by Kindred was very special to us.  Per the quote below, I have no regrets and no unspoken words for my husband truly knew my heart, and I knew his.

“Let today be a day where you take nothing for granted. For life is fleeting, fragile and precious and can change on a whim. Say all the things you really want to say to your loved ones today, say the things you would regret should they pass on and your words remain unspoken. Rejoice, for you and they are alive today – and should you or them pass on to unknown shores, rejoice even more for you have a wonderful love story to tell.”

– Jackson Kiddard

Speak On It – Holding On?

From time to time, I receive emails from people asking me what I think about a particular situation, or asking me for my advice on something.  Huh??  Little ole me??  MrsTDJ?  Well, I thank y’all kindly for having so much trust in ya girl’s opinion.  Usually the emails are related to weight loss surgery, obesity in general, and marrying your high school sweetheart.  Cool.  Obviously, all areas that I’m comfortable discussing and sharing insight on.  Outside of that?  Well, my friends say I’m a pretty rational, logical, straight shooter when it comes to sharing my opinion and they often turn to me as a sounding board.

I received an email over the weekend and the writer wanted to hear what my dear blog readers thought. I think I’ll start routinely posting these under a category called Speak On It. I’m especially interested in my male readers, so please come out from the shadows to impart just a wee bit of wisdom on this here topic, m’kay?

Dear MrsTDJ,

I love your blog!  I read often, but I rarely comment since I read from work.  Would you mind asking your blog readers to weigh in on a situation?  I’m engaged to the love of my life.  In preparation for our move into another space, I’ve come across an old box of mine that contains letters and pictures from previous relationships.  I know that you’re not really one for nostalgia (re your baby mementos post), but I tend to love keeping things.  It’s never occurred to me to trash these items, but I’m wondering how my fiancée might react to them.  I am 100% committed to my fiancée.  I don’t maintain friendships with any of my ex’s however there are many fond memories in the box.  I’m struggling with the idea of throwing these boxes away.  I am leaning toward keeping them, but I wouldn’t want to hold on to all this stuff if it hurt my fiancée.  I turned the scenario around, and if my fiancée were holding on to old mementos, I wouldn’t object knowing that he is 100% mine.  Can you ask your blog readers what they think? 

My response is toss ’em.  But, hey, we all know I’m not much for certain types of mementos.  Seriously though, I’d personally feel like my partner didn’t have both feet in if they had a secret stash of love things from previous relationships.  Right or wrong, that’s my emotional response.  I’d feel the need to be rid of those items, even if my partner didn’t have an objection.  But, heck, what do I know?  MrTDJ and I have been together since polka dots were cool. I’m so not qualified to advise on matters of the heart.

Holding onto letters and pics from old relationships?  Problem or no big deal?  What do y’all think?  Let’s hear it folks.

Ya’ll Gon’ Make Me Lose My Mind

Up in here, Up in HERE!!!!  Ya’ll gon’ make me go all out, up in here, up in HERE!

Ya’ll gon’ make me act a fool, up in here, up in HERE!

One, Two – MEET ME OUTSIDE!!!!!

Maaaaaan, that used to be the jam!! In case you don’t know the lyrical reference (really?  You don’t?) or you didn’t click the link (why not?), that is the chorus/refrain from “Party Up” by rapper DMX.  Hands down, my favorite DMX song.   By the time it came out in 1999, I had drifted far away from most rap because I just wasn’t feeling it – too violent, too misogynistic, too flashy, and really, just too different from the 80’s and 90’s hip hip that I lovedI’m old school for life. *lol*  But when this jam came out???  DMX had me and many of ya’ll acting a fool!!

I never really followed him over the years, but every now and then I’d hear a news blurb about the DMX getting into some kind of trouble.   It seems that he dipped, dabbled and damn near drowned in drugs and alcohol, causing him to almost lose his mind (for real) and in more than instance, actually lose his freedom. His drug issues and run ins with the law have been well publicized.  Recently, he was the subject of a VH1, Behind the Music episode.  I DVR’ed it a few weeks ago and finally got a chance to watch it last week.  Wow!  Have you seen it?  No?  If you have VH1, find it and watch it!

In case you haven’t seen it, X (as most call him) was raised by an abusive mother.  By the age of 13, he was snatching purses and doing crack.  ***crickets***  Say what?  Yes, yes, ya’ll.  Your boy was smoking crack by 13! Woooooooooooooooow!   We’ve all got a story to tell, and I was GLUED to the television to hear his.  He met his girlfriend (now wife) while he was a teenager and told her a few months into dating that he was, indeed, addicted to crack.  Really????  And check this out – she stayed around.  Didn’t catch the first thing smoking (pun intended), didn’t break up, didn’t give him an ultimatum; just kept dating him.  Then married him.  Wow!

A woman knowingly dated a crack addict. Let that sink in.  As I started kicking it around in my head, I had to give him just a little credit.  Hell, at least he was honest.  *lol*   The kid?  I’d have been Audi 5000!  I can co-sign and ignore the little ish with the best of ‘em, but a crack addiction?  Uhn unh.  Couldn’t do it.  Homegirl was a trooper.  Feel in love with, married, then had children with a crack addict.  Stayed with him for about 15 years.  Ironically, she told him then that she wouldn’t tolerate infidelity and that’s ultimately, what caused her to leave. 

NOT the crack??  For real???  No, seriously. NOT the crack??


Hmm, ok, moving on.  After that revelation, my mind started racing.  Although smoking crack may be the extreme, how often do we (women and men), accept behavior in a mate because we simply love them? Think about your girlfriend dating the cute guy who drinks just a little too much, a little too often. What about your brother who dates the woman with credit so bad that she asked him to put her new apartment in his name? Or your new boyfriend who has a restraining order against him for abusing his last girlfriend? Some things are dealbreakers, but when in love, how often do people let the explanation outweigh the evidence to the contrary?  Have you ever gone into a relationship with both eyes open regarding a habit, lifestyle or behavior that was dangerous or detrimental to the other person (and potentially yourself)?   Care to share?