life, the universe, and everything

Falling into place 12 June 2008

Filed under: personal — creativecat @ 8:30 pm
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It’s strange that as an agnostic with atheist tendencies, I believe that life happens the way it should. I guess a believer might call it fate. I’m not a fan of that word because it brings up too many religious connotations. I don’t even think there’s necessarily anything supernatural about it. Just that as much as I could (and have) tried to plan my life, what I think I’ll want and what I end up wanting don’t equal the same thing.

For example, if you asked me 10 years where I would be today, I doubt I would tell you that I would be an almost-widow living in North Carolina working part-time as a graphic designer in a long-distance relationship and would be happy with my life. Two years ago, I would have thought Mike’s death would destroy me–especially if you added having my hours at work cut back. Even three months ago, I wouldn’t tell you that I would be dating a friend of my ex-husband. I would have laughed in your face and told you I wouldn’t be dating ANYONE for a while. And I really believed that.

Now I realize that my new relationship, while completely unplanned and extremely unexpected, started exactly when it should have. If it had started even a few days earlier, I think it would be over already. I don’t feel any guilt over it like I was afraid of. Everyone I’ve spoken with has actually commented how THEY weren’t surprised about our relationship. The two of us in the relationship probably had enough surprise for everyone. Even Mike’s mother told me I had no reason to feel guilty. Her exact response was “Oh I LOVE him!” Of course, it’s still too early for ME to say that.

But I don’t believe Mike would be offended if I did. Numerous times he told me that he wanted me to move on and be happy with someone else. Again, it sounds crazy coming from a virtual atheist, but he came to me in a dream recently. I don’t know if it was actually him or if it was just my subconscious. Either way, I can’t remember much about the dream except that when I woke up, I just felt at peace. Mike was still dead in my dream. I remember talking to him in my dream and feeling like I was going crazy talking to someone who no longer existed. But everyone else in my dream could see him and talk to him as if he were still alive too. He didn’t look like he did when he died; he looked like he did before he got sick.

Even with all of the stress in my personal life, for some reason, when my boss told me work was slow and she didn’t have much for me to do, I wasn’t upset. I looked at it as a new opportunity. Time to think about what I really want. Time to look for a better job without feeling any guilt. Time to get back into working on my own work. And freelance work has just found its way to me. Out of the blue, I heard from a client I haven’t worked for in at least a year. I even heard about a full-time position at graphic design firm. I have an interview lined up for a position that sounds exactly like what I want to be doing: managing design projects. I wasn’t meant to stay at my current job. There’s something better just waiting around the corner.


Laughing instead of crying 18 May 2008

Filed under: personal — creativecat @ 10:44 am
Tags: , ,

So much has happened since the last time I posted, it feels like a lifetime ago. At the beginning of March, Mike, my ex-husband and best friend was told his cancer was back and this time it was terminal. His doctors told him he’d likely have a good year with chemo. He only had one round of chemo before they discontinued treatment because he didn’t weigh enough to handle it. That Tuesday, only two weeks after he found out about the cancer, he went back to his mom’s house. I followed him there a few days later.

Those few weeks were some of the most difficult I’ve ever gone through. Watching someone you love waste away is so painful when you know there’s nothing you or anyone else can do. Mike wouldn’t let me or anyone else help him get dressed because he didn’t want anyone to see how horrible his body looked. At 6 feet tall, his doctors stopped chemo because he dropped below 100 pounds–and kept losing weight. At the end, my arms were bigger than his legs. You could barely recognize him until he opened his mouth. Then you realized he was still Mike.

For someone who loved food as much as him, not being able to eat much more than a cookie or two a day seemed so cruel. I almost broke down when I found a list called “Things to eat when I’m better” when going through his things. I brought him one of his favorite treats (and one of the few things his stomach could handle): Cadbury creme eggs. I asked him what was wrong because his face contorted in disgust. He told me he was so sick of them but he could probably eat them again next year. And we both laughed because we had forgotten there wouldn’t be a next year for him.

The night before he died, he told his mom that he was really happy. He explained he had everything he wanted: coffee, cigarettes, tv remote, Playstation all within reach and someone to call if he needed anything else. And he really was happy. We weren’t there to comfort him; he was there to comfort us. Mike let us know he was at peace–and we would be too.

No one was allowed to cry or sob at Mike’s bedside. If you needed to cry, you needed to do it away from him. He didn’t want people to mourn his death; he wanted them to celebrate his life. He planned his memorial service to be just that. We ended the service with Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Even in death, Mike wanted people to laugh. After all, he did die on April Fool’s Day. I can’t think any other day that could have been as appropriate.

I have shed a few tears. I still can’t listen to Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates” without crying. But I know Mike didn’t want me (or anyone else) to sink into depression. A few years ago, while we were still married, Mike was about to go into surgery and didn’t think he would make it through. He told me then that he wanted me to be happy and move on with my life. That sounded impossible to me then. I didn’t want to believe he wouldn’t be there to grow old with me. But as time went on, I realized that was never going to happen: I was going to outlive him by decades. I’m not sure if our marriage ended because divorce seemed easier than being a widow, but I think things worked out the way they were meant to happen. I wouldn’t trade anything I went through with Mike.

My experiences with him were not easy. Most college students only have the stress of finals. I was worried about the love of my life dying and not being able to pay the rent while working on finals. Numerous people have told me how impressed they are with my strength in dealing with everything (even though I don’t feel particularly strong). Sheer necessity forced me to deal with the situation. If I didn’t, I would have fallen apart. Now, when something happens that most people would worry about, I’m not really bothered. It can’t get worse than what I’ve already been through. I’ve also realized worrying doesn’t help; it just stresses me out. Things are going to go wrong regardless of my attitude, so I might as well laugh about it.