Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Ladybug...

Shortly after meeting Rob, he felt it important to have some sort of pet name for me. Not long after he made this declaration he decided this name would be “ladybug”. I’ve been obsessed with the red and black winged insect for nearly fifteen years so it made sense and made me smile.
I was one devastated lil bug when I found out I would no longer hear his voice say “Hey ladybug…” hence the name of my blog being what it is. After his funeral Nathan pointed out that life from here on out would be my “new normal”. I wasn’t looking for a “new normal”. I liked my “normal” normal thankyouverymuch.
Whether or not I liked it, adjustments had to be made. Processing of this loss had to happen along with every day life. Writing lets me process as well as talking to people, creating, or even taking some time out to talk to Rob. One day at a time a new normal was created and, one day at a time is still being created. Some days are like giant abstract paintings full of bright energetic colors, revelations, epiphanies and the like while some days are photographs of lush, captivating landscapes that seen to go on forever and still some are gray, full of clouds and rain.
With the loss of Rob nearly three years behind me I have grown and changed more than I ever have before. There have been plenty of set backs, icky, messy days, but also so many days full of more light and wonderfulness than I ever thought possible. Without the experience of his love and acceptance of who I am as a whole person I would have no idea how to recognize it today.
I used to lose my mind when, shorty after Rob died, mom would remind me that I would find someone else. I knew this. I just needed time to move through the current situation. For a little while I didn’t know how to be with someone else. I hated that I was attracted to Pete back in Atlanta. I hated that I wanted to go on a date with him. In the end my curiosity got the best of me and kept one foot in front of the other in acknowledging that dating someone doesn’t discount what I had. Pete was easy though. I was moving and he was still in law school. I didn’t feel there was much to lose because the loss had already practically happened when we, in not so many words, knew this wouldn’t last after I left.
Then, in walked Jeff, or should I say I walked in…to his place of employment and everything changed once again. Upon meeting him, going on a date with him, and choosing to walk this path with him, I found a kind of love that I’m not sure would ever exist for me. I’m used to dramatic encounters, always on a high of some sort. With Jeff the “high” is that of a stable, normal, loving relationship. One I can sink my feet into. It’s something I’m learning to open doors to, invite him in and allow him to love me while reciprocating that love. Writing those words feels very familiar. I had an idea of what that kind of love was like before it turned into something else, pulling us apart and into different worlds. I have remained grateful for the experience but I never knew I’d be grateful because it taught me to see, understand and give back that kind of love to someone else. It wasn’t a lesson I thought I was going to have to learn in the way I’m learning it. It’s been one of my biggest challenges in this grieving process, loving someone else with every ounce of my being and doing my absolute best to trust that he’s there and it really is ok.
All that being said, my “new normal” has moved again to another kind of normal. It’s one where I’m spending time (as guiltlessly as possible…) cultivating more creativity, learning more about myself, inside and outside of my grief, all while continuing to grow in my relationship with this wonderful, beautiful, incredible person that I love more than I ever thought possible.
I won’t stop writing here but my focus is shifting to other ideas and subject matter. I think it’s time I start taking baby steps into something else, being a ladybug that is not grieving so much but something else, something I can’t describe yet. I’ve recently began sharing other parts of myself on a new blog titled Ironically enough I chose the title because Jeff has said that I remind him of a squirrel. It made me laugh and I found it fitting and so the title and blog were born! Here I’m working more on finding my creative voice and expressing what that looks like for me. It’s a difficult process as well being I don’t let many people into this part but I hope to learn one entry and image at a time.
Words cannot express the amount gratitude I have for all of you that have followed me through this excruciating time, helping me along with your kindness, understanding and presence. It has meant the absolute world to me. I love you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letting go..?

Writing feels really hard right now but talking feels even harder and I feel I want this out somehow so here I am, staring at my computer screen willing the words to work themselves out to form sentences that might reflect back at me (and youJ) what’s going through my head.
When writing gets hard (I’m not sure I’ve written about this so forgive me if I’ve already explained it) I cut out pictures of magazines and glue them into a small journal that I bought shortly after moving here. It’s recently expanded to doing this on canvas and currently, in a large watercolor book. I don’t think much about the process, I just know that I need to do it if I can’t talk or write. Nine times out of ten what is bugging me is reflected back at me with these chosen images. Sometimes, rarely actually, I either put it away before really getting into it, or what I come up with makes no sense to me.
I shared with a client not too long ago about Rob and losing him. I’m not sure why I told her. I don’t share much about my life with her. She shared that her sister lost her boyfriend five years ago to suicide and has recently gotten married. It was so relieving to tell her about Rob. She listened, and told me it was ok to say what I wanted.
After I finished her hair, I felt I needed to take a walk, cry, or something. I ate instead and became annoyed with a co-worker wanting to talk about something I tuned out. I suddenly felt raw, and wanted to remove myself entirely…from this situation, from the building, from this strange feeling that threatens to overwhelm me should I let it.
Jeff was my last haircut and we went to dinner afterwards. I wanted to tell him about my client but chose not to. Every time I want to talk about Rob or grief, some kind of wall shoots up and intercepts all my words, shoving them back in my mouth, shutting it, locking it, and tossing the key. This has little to do with him and more to do with the fact that talking about Rob makes me vulnerable in a way I feel I can’t handle, so I push it away. It’s hard enough for me to process on my own, but to tell someone else? Someone I’m in a relationship with? I don’t know where to start with that one.
Monday was the next day and I felt myself getting squirrelly, still not talking. By Tuesday I was crying so much that by my lunch break I was desperate to leave work, but stayed anyway. I called Beth asking to see her either Wednesday or Thursday. Wednesday it is.
Later, I texted my friend Derek saying I felt I was being eaten up with grief. “I’m trying to sit with and be ok with it because it is what it is today but it’s killing me…”
He texted back “Don’t sit with it, go use that energy and create something with it.”
Excellent. I will do just that. My head starts bouncing around ideas and I’ve practically imagined what I’m going to paste.
On Wednesday before seeing Beth, I stopped by Blick downtown and bought a 12x12 canvas. This one is rather small compared to my other ones but I’m finding it to be perfect.
“So what’s going on?” Beth asks as I’m settled down on the couch in front of her.
I shake my head already trying not to cry. “I…I had this client come in on Sunday…”
I explain all of that and my lack of willingness to talk.
“Hmm. I wonder…I wonder if you need to talk to Rob.” she suggests. “Tell him about some things that you wish you two could have done. What are some things you feel he’s missed out on?” Beth stood up from her chair and took her coat, and a pillow and arranged it on the table next to me.
“Ok, we’ll pretend this is Rob. Here are some tissues, just incase.” she sits down again. “So just tell him. Anything.”
I might explode into a million pieces. I almost wish I would. I have no idea where to start. It feels silly because he’s been here the whole time, watching all of us live our lives as best we can. I feel I’d be repeating myself but I’m willing to try anything at this point.
“We were supposed to go to Charleston in May but he died in April.” I almost whisper. I’m not looking at Beth or “Rob”, but at the door between them. I smile, tears falling. “We also talked about simply driving around Anderson, where he lived with no agenda, just driving. Usually these things don’t appeal to me, but with him, it didn’t matter, as long as we were together. I feel I get a little crazy now when Jeff and I talk about doing things then end up not doing them or making plans because I feel I never know when we may not get the chance again. I feel I have to do absolutely everything always.”
“Is there anything you’d like to say to Rob about things he’s missed?” Beth asks.
I can’t speak. Tears fall and fall until I’m able to catch my breath. “Everything. Being here, in Chicago, and everything I’ve done and seen. I have this weird attachment to Art+Science. After I interviewed with them, I called Rob while I was standing on the train platform, snow still on the ground in March, explaining everything that I would have to do as an assistant, like a teach-back at the end of the program and class every Monday for eight hours. I was more than willing to go ahead with it. When the time came to actually do my teach-back I was a hot mess thinking he should be here with me now. I should be able to call him and tell him about what I was doing.”
“Is there anything you wish you had said when he was still here?” Beth asked.
“Nope.” I shake my head. “I told him everything. The last thing I said to him before he left my house the day he died was “I love you.”
“You two have a very strong connection, even now.” Beth observes.
I nod.
“I’m wondering if you need to let go of each other. It feels like he needs to let go as much as you need to. Maybe not entirely leaving each other but get to a place where this doesn’t consume you. Like, maybe set up a time where you can spend time with him, talk to him, or whatever you’d like and leave at that instead of having him consume all of you. How does that sound?”
Scary. I’m nervous. I’m willing. At the same time though I feel my grip on this tighten, threatened with the idea of further loss. I try to acknowledge that I’m doing what I’ve always done, held on with an incredibly intense grip to anything that I might lose, good or bad. I’m hoping that by acknowledging it, I’ll actually be able to let go. It’s not budging yet. I sigh.
“I’m willing to try it.” I say.
“Again, this doesn’t have to happen, it’s just a suggestion, but I think it’s going to be important for you two to loosen your grip on each other so you can live a full life here. I think that in some ways you keep yourself from having fun, engaging, or being fully open to Jeff because of this.”
I nod. I do.
Later I’m in my apartment, my collage project strewn all over my living room, Pandora playing on my laptop some soft piano-heavy music, mismatched pajamas cover my chilled body, and a picture of Rob rests on top of the loveseat. I wander around the coffee table, sifting through all the images I have spread out there, my fingers grabbing certain ones and setting them aside. There is no rhyme or reason to this, just whatever jumps out at me. While doing this, I’m glancing at the smiling image of Rob’s 26 year old face, feeling all of it’s familiarity but distance at the same time. It’s been two and half years, yet it feels like an hour ago that he was just here, or I just hung up the phone after some epic three hour conversation.
“Hi.” I “say” to the image in my head and sigh. I feel silly. I talk to him all the time but this feels a little unnatural. I begin to arrange the images on the canvas. I drew a sketch of something similar a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing to me that I’ve fashioned these magazine images to resemble the sketch without meaning to.
I sit on the coffee table and face the loveseat, and begin to glue the images on the canvas. “I’m not sure what to say. I’m sorry.” I tell Rob’s picture. “I’m listening though, if you want to say something to me.”
I pick up a picture of a bird, and turn it over. A weird mix of letters and numbers that look like random codes or something litter the page, but in the top right hand corner, the words “I love you” are clear as day. A fresh wave of tears start and as they subside, I get back to the canvas, arranging, gluing, and staring at it until I finish.
There is no sadness as I do this, cry, think, and remember. Just a knowledge of what was, what is, and the fact that he is somewhere and I’m here wondering what to do next.

Friday, December 10, 2010


It was like having a plug pulled out of some lost buried part of me that sent the tears streaming down my face. “Six.” I choked, air leaving my lungs. “I have no idea why I’m saying this. Nothing happened to me. I don‘t know what it is.”
“Nothing has to happen to you for you to shut it off.” Abby replied, her warm brown eyes taking in my slobbery image.
I’m on my back, my body stretched out on a massage table. My eyes had been closed at first and then she asked me the question…
I know it’s been forever since I’ve written. It’s not like I’ve forgotten. I think about writing every day. I do write every day. There is so much I’d like to write that there isn’t enough time in this life to get it all out. That feeling is so overwhelming that I tend to do nothing about it. I let it sit until I’m ready to scream. Right now, today, screaming isn’t violent enough. It’s not loud enough, not expressive enough to fully exorcise whatever it is that is fuming inside me. I tried to feed her to shut her up, tried to talk her out, tired pulling her out, tried yelling at her to get out but nothing is working so here I am, desperately needing to share this but feeling terrified, embarrassed, even a bit confused, but I’m here. Writing right now feels like a delicious drink of water on a hot day, so maybe this is what I’m after. I just went after it in the most round about way.
Jeff and I have been abiding by our date nights and not over stepping those boundaries too much. Sometimes the lines get blurred a little but for the most part we set aside time each week for a date. In the mean time we see each other when we can. I’m still working on being more open to him and with him. Parts of me are still so very frightened. They’re still insanely terrified that I will lose this wonderful person/relationship, because it’s happened before…why wouldn’t it happen again? Jeff is adorable, and so very precious to me in ways I can’t articulate even to myself. So Imma do it, scared or not. Thank God he’s patient and willing. I’m defiantly seeing that I’m going to have to talk, open up to let him in if this is ever going to be 100%. Thing is, I thought I was doing a decent job but I’m no where near open. There are glimpses of this openness though so I don’t entirely feel like a lost cause, I just get stuck sometimes.
Also with Beth’s encouragement, I’ve managed to begin selling my jewelry on ( All I needed it seemed was a little push. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in being a perfectionist, wanting my pictures to be flawless that I kept dragging my feet on this endeavor. The pictures aren’t perfect. They won’t be. I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m doing the best that I can. At least I have a starting point. I’ve made a place where I can edit accordingly. I couldn’t edit without the images being up so this whole thing was simply remaining a daydream until now.
Now I’m entertaining attaching another blog to the page chronicling my creative pursuits and life as I know it right now. That would mean, although I’m not sure yet, putting this one down except for writing on anniversaries like Rob’s birthday, (his would be 29th was Oct 23) the day we met, (Feb 10th,’08) and the day he died (April 20, 08) and any other situation I might feel like displaying. This idea is still bouncing around my head. I’m not sure I’m ready to really give this one up just yet and start another one. I’m not sure how to start really. That is the most paralyzing part, not knowing where to start. That first sentence is most agonizing but again, I’ll have nothing to edit if I don’t put it down.
Last Saturday, I asked one of my clients what she was going to be doing after her hair cut.
“I’m going to see an energy healer.” she replied.
“Really.” I stopped cutting to look at her in the mirror.
“Yeah, my mom got me started on that when I was really young. My aunt told me about this woman. She’s naturally gifted. She didn’t learn it or anything, she‘s been given this talent.”
“Really.” was all I could manage again as I pick up another section of her wet hair, and cut it accordingly. I’ve done this twice before, this energy work. I’ve enjoyed it both times but there this something about my client and the way she’s speaking about her lady that has me awfully intrigued. We both go back and forth about why we go, our confidence issues and past stuff that we want to work through. I ask her if this woman can communicate with people who have passed on.
“You know, I’m not sure.” my client tells me. “I actually think I’m going to ask her that today when I see her. I lost my boyfriend in 2008.”
I stopped cutting again. “Me too!”
“What? Really?”
“Yup.” I nod. I find out that my client’s boyfriend committed suicide on March 16th.
She gets it. Immediately we have this understanding sitting between us, that binds us together they way we aren’t bound to other people. I don’t have to say another word, don’t have to explain anything, because she’s been there.
We talk about dating and how we’re both terrified to experience that again, God forbid something happen a second time. I’m doing my absolute best to return my focus to her hair, tears blurring my view of what I’m supposed to cut.
“You have to see Abby.” my client tells me. “Please go see her. I’ll leave you her card.”
“I will.” I say it and mean it. I’m going to call her as soon as I finish drying my client’s hair.
Except I’m running late now and instead of quickly picking up the phone, or getting my next client, I’m locked in the bathroom, eyes squeezed shut, tears spilling out anyway, hands gripping the sink, desperate for a release of emotion I’ve managed to keep in for nearly an hour. Almost as quickly as I entered, I’m exiting, cheeks dry, happy face in place, deep breaths filling my lungs…
On Thursday I’m sitting in a coffee shop I’ve never been to trying to write. I’m to get on a bus soon and head over to Abby’s. It’s a beautiful day with bright sunshine and temperatures that feel like spring instead of a late Midwestern fall. A woman is across from me on a couch yelling into her cell phone. Something about her son’s birthday not being correct on an airline ticket. This woman has already been on my last nerve since she walked in. This tantrum makes it worse and I leave, wanting to walk and calm down before I get to Abby’s. I don’t want to bring all that crazy into her home.
I find the bus and get to her place. She lives in a high rise and I’m buzzed up by the concierge. I enter her small space and meet her as she’s making a pasta dish.
“Melissa! So good to meet you! Annie spoke so highly of you!” Abby smiles, shaking me hand.
I laugh and tell her that she spoke very highly of her too.
“Come in, let’s talk before we get started.” she tells me before instructing me to take off my shoes and leave them on the mat at the door.
I further enter her space which is cream colored and brightly sit with sunlight.
“Have a seat.” she motions toward the table and chairs. I do and smile across the way at her. “Tell me what brings you in.”
“Good question.” I sigh. “I’m having trouble getting in my own way when it comes to doing creative things. I make jewelry and want to write a book. Doing hair brings in my income but there are these other things I want to accomplish as well. I’ve got a lot of confidence issues surrounding these things.”
Abby nods.
“Also, I lost my boyfriend in a car accident two years ago so there’s that. I’m currently in a relationship that is wonderful but I’m having a hard time being open and allowing that relationship to happen because I’m so scared of losing it.”
“Of course you are! You experienced a tremendous loss. Sometimes, we go into a period of healing, kind of like wearing a cast where not much may happen creatively. Eventually though, it does happen, we just have to give it time.”
I nod. “I’m impatient. I’ve given it almost three years and am at a point where I don’t know what to do with it. I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other…”
She nods again. “That’s all you can do. His death, your experience with all of this at such a young age has opened you up to a kind of wisdom that most people don’t experience until much later in life. People your age are getting married and having children, not losing their significant others.”
I nod trying not to cry. I know it’s ok to cry but can’t seem to allow it to happen in front of people anymore. Not in front of her, Jeff or even Beth, the woman I freakin’ pay to listen to me.
Abby tells me a little about herself. She doesn’t see or hear well but her sense of touch is sharp. Upon touching people she can reach all sorts of different parts of them. She noticed that she was different at a very young age. Her grandmother has a similar gift and encouraged Abby to not shy away from hers. Abby would pick up on emotions from other people and is quite introverted. A part of me relates to this without speaking up and saying so. Later, I reveal this when she begins to set up the massage table.
“Are you empathic?” she asks.
“In a very small way, yes.” I reply. “I can pick up on my client’s energies pretty well. It becomes a problem sometimes when someone is overwhelming. I get sucked in.”
“Yes. You have a very bright energy about you but you’re very respectful. Sometimes people are all over the place.”
“I completely understand!” I laugh.
When everything is set up she asks me to lay face up on the table. I do so and stare at the ceiling.
“Melissa, this is your time ok? If anything becomes uncomfortable for you or I’m saying too much just let me know.”
I close my eyes and nod. I want whatever she wants to give. I hear her inhale and exhale. Her hands haven’t touched me when she speaks.
“You haven’t begun to touch your grief. You haven’t been present in your body in a very long time. You judge yourself very harshly.” Her hand touches my head, and tears come. “Am I right?”
“Yes.” I whisper.
Her hands continue to move down my head and over my ears. “You’re running on endurance alone. Operating like this hasn’t made any room for creativity. It’s like you’re running a marathon with no fuel. You’re like a pressure cooker right now. I’m going to touch some acupuncture points to help ease the pressure in your head.”
I feel her fingertips on the tops of my ears. While I don’t feel much going on through out my body, I feel her hands heat up. She’s quiet until she moves around to the side of me and asks the question that had me instantaneously crying. We talked earlier about me being empathic, picking up on other people’s feelings and energies. I feel a lot with my clients mostly but have been able to tune into my friends, co-workers and sometimes, Jeff… a little. I’m scared of it and don’t acknowledge it’s happening always.
“I’m going to ask you a question.” Abby says to me. “I don’t want you to think about it much or analyze it, just answer with the first thing that comes to your mind.”
I nod.
“How old were you when you first shut off the empathic part of yourself?”
Enter the tears and the answer being “six”.
I’m confused now. I don’t understand what’s going on or what part of me said “six.”
“I feel it was earlier than that. I feel like you were three, four, five, maybe six.” she tells me.
“Nothing happened though.”
“Nothing has to happen. You may have walked past someone who just committed a crime and got scared and shut it off. Kids are very perceptive but have a hard time processing things so they tune out, shut off.”
The rest of the session was relaxing and I felt like a million dollars when I left. I walked for a while before finding the train and heading home. I was dying to share this with Jeff but when he came over I shut off. I got into the story a little bit before telling him that I was getting on my own nerves hearing myself talk and I shut off.
“I feel like you don’t want me here.” he says later while fixing dinner.
“Of course I do.” I tell him. I don’t know what’s going on, talking just feels too hard. Maybe one day…or maybe not. I’m not sure.
The following week was pretty tumultuous. I cried a lot, wrote even more, made several pieces of jewelry and eventually told Jeff. Whatever Abby did, she unlocked something and I’m itching to go back and see what else might happen but want to give it some more time, letting the dust settle a little bit from this session before diving into another…

Black and White...

It’s Thursday and I’m sitting across from Beth in her office. I swear she’s like a dose of crack. I so look forward to our appointments. I tell her that I’ve been hanging out with Jeff despite my telling him that I can’t have contact with him because it’s too freakin’ hard. Yet, I can’t seem to get enough of him either. I don’t understand.
“I don’t think this needs to be so black and white.” Beth offers. “I think that you can have time to yourself and your relationship, if you want.”
I nod, letting that roll around in my head for a minute. Do I think in terms of black and white? All or nothing? Of course I do… if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t be in this predicament.
“I think you guys need to set some very clear boundaries and not over step them. Set up one or two nights a week for dates and leave it at that. If you choose to see each other more, make that decision but don’t let a brunch date go all day if that isn’t what you’ve planned. That way you know you’re going to see each other which frees you both up to do other things.”
I nod again. “I like this idea, we just do a very good job of letting things go overboard.”
“You consume each other and that’s when you run into problems.” she reminds me.
“Is this something you want to try?” she asks.
“It is. I’m just scared.”
“Of what?”
“Of having it not work, of going over board again and ending up where we are now.”
“That’s why it’s important to talk about it. When you’re feeling things are getting out of control again you’re going to have to say something to him. I really feel like this is fixable.”
I nod. “Me too.” a smile slowly spread across my face. “So. He’s working now. Should I just call and ask him to meet up?”
“I don’t see why not.” she smiles back at me.
“Oh I’m excited!” I laugh. Suddenly, a solution has presented itself and I’m ecstatic.
When I leave her office, I call Jeff and leave him a message. He later agrees to meet me. We decide to go to Millennium Park where I relay the details of my visit with Beth.
“So…you wanna try this?” I ask.
He nods. “Yes.”
I’m bursting, and relieved all at the same time, ecstatic and grateful that he’s willing to try this. We decide to set up a date for next week and walk out of the park, my hand in his, as it’s closing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love...

One of my clients, we’ll call her Jane, told me that each night before she goes to sleep, she lights candles and talks to her “angels”. She tells them about her day, what she wants, her fears etc… then she asks them what they want to tell her. She’s been doing this for so long that she’s become quite good at “hearing” them, letting them guide her. I feel Rob is my guide and have for a long time now but I never stopped to ask, “what do you want to tell me?” I’m usually asking for things, sometimes yelling to him to “fix” whatever mess I’m drowning in. If I ever “feel” something it’s felt in my fingers tingling beneath my skin because something is wrong or I have an intuitive thought that is sometimes fleeting but sometimes strong enough to make me do an about face and go in another direction. I’d like to learn to “catch” things before that happens. I decide to try this listening thing and see what comes up.
The first time I do it, I’m in bed, about to go to sleep when I get very still, and begin my usual dialogue. This consists of a lot of please helps and thank yous before I ask “What would you like me to know?”
I fall asleep before “hearing” anything.
The next night, my brain is so scattered and jumbled that I hear nothing but my own racing thoughts, but the night after that when I’m very still and awake enough to pay attention the words “eat, pray, love” appear in my mind’s eye.
My brain attacks this, tearing it to shreds, trying to analyze it. I tell God/Rob that I tried reading the book but only made it half way through as it didn’t hold my attention like I thought it would. “What would you like me to do with it?” I ask.
“The movie is coming out I think. Soon I hope. Do you want me to see it?”
“Am I’m supposed to travel like that? Cause I want to…”
More silence.
“Sooo… do you want me to just wait and see what happens? Are you going to tell me more?”
Extended silence.
“Ok. I get it. I’ll wait.”
The next morning my first thought was of those words “eat, pray, love.” Maybe that’s how I am to live my life. I write them down and hope something comes of it.
Days later my alarm goes off and I hit the snooze button. I never hit the snooze button. Ever. I’m on day five of ten hour work days (working to make up for time off next month) and today is Saturday, the busiest day complete with a huge wedding party that I’m terrified of. Weddings are stressful and I don’t even put hair up or do formal styling. I usually get stuck blowing out little old ladies which given my southern background you think I’d be a pro at by now but sadly, I am not.
I can barely open my eyes as I roll out of bed. I walk over to my closet and stare at it’s contents willing something to fly out of it and dress me. No such luck. I walk away and turn on my computer. While waiting for it to load, I stare at the wall and think about painting my face and brushing my teeth. It all sounds like a good idea…
I peruse the internet instead being the master procrastinator that I am. I should get ready. I have fifteen minutes now to look presentable. Damn. I wonder what’s in my Gmail inbox…
Agh! Stop! I get up and turn the computer off. I quickly apply some make-up and beat down the rooster mess that is my hair. Back in front of the closet I stare at it’s contents again. Nothing is appealing. For the love of God! Pick something! I annoy the hell out of myself sometimes. I chose a pair of tiny black shorts that I haven’t worn since, well, forever and a black button up shirt wondering just what it is I’m thinking right now. I push my feet into little black heels and race out the door practically running to the train with one eye still half closed.
At the Unicorn I stare out the window eating granola and sipping life in the form of an Americano. I tell myself over and over that I’m a good stylist. I can do old lady hair. If I need help I can ask. It will end no matter what.
After downing the first Americano, I order another and head to work. I enjoy my first client. I wish nothing but good things for her as she tells me about dating a new guy she’s met at work after a series of awkward first and sometimes second dates with random people.
Later, my co-workers Audrey, Lauren and I are in the break room laughing about how all of us were saying positive affirmations to ourselves about today, each of us having our own challenges. We’re all nervous about this wedding party, none of us knowing what to expect.
I get no-showed which opens up time for a run to Whole Paycheck (Whole Foods…however you want to view itJ) and grab lunch. While standing in line I think to myself what a blessing it is to have this break to actually get food. I forgot my lunch and am thrilled I’ll have time to eat this deliciousness I’m about to purchase.
Ah, the wedding party has arrived. There are fourteen people. I look around for my little lady and find her talking with two other little ladies and smile upon laying eyes on her. She’s in her eighties at least, with short, white, curly hair, and sparkling green eyes behind a pair of black rimmed glasses that I have the urge to covet. She lights up when I say her name and introduce myself which makes me light up and feel that this will all be ok.
In my chair she has the energy of an eighteen year old happily explaining how she wants her hair.
“I want it light, airy and festive!” she chirps.
I’m laughing explaining how I see it going. She agrees and I get her shampooed.
In the bowl she tells me all about how she graduated from Northwestern University, majoring in German. She taught German for many years out in Denver where she lived with her husband. I love the sound of this woman’s voice. It’s full of a kind of joy that I rarely experience or see in other people. I’ve heard happiness in people’s voices among other things, but joy? It’s rarely seen.
“How long have you been married?” I ask.
“Well.” she begins. “This year would have been fifty four years but he’s since passed on.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. How long has been gone?”
“Ten years.” she tells me.
“Wow.” I nod.
“Oh but he was a wonderful man!” she exclaims like a newlywed. “We had the best time! We skied all the time out there in Denver and lived in a beautiful home. He was simply amazing. And handsome too!”
I see in her something I once had. She is sparkling as she talks about him. Her words and love are a mirror image of something I had. My entire being soaks her up, desperately wanting that again and thrilled to pieces to be looking at it, feeling it and remembering in the form of another human being. My eyes flood as I rinse her hair. I can have it again. I remind myself. I’m apparently just not ready yet.
Back in my chair it’s as if she and I are the only two people in the salon. She tells me about her life, surviving cancer twice, raising children, teaching, and moving to San Diego after her husband passed away.
I ask what her husband did she said he was an architectural engineer. Amazing.
“I still love him so much. Even after he’s been gone ten years.”
My floodgates are about to burst. I can’t tell her or you what this means to me to hear this. To hear that she still loves him this much after he’s been gone for so long. It’s like putting ice on a burn. It soothes and calms my frayed, scared nerves in ways I’ve been desperate for. She makes it ok for me to still love and miss Rob as much as I do but am afraid to admit.
“Do you still feel him? I ask her.
“Oh yes! All the time! He’s thrilled about this wedding!” she happily replies referring to her granddaughter who is getting married today. “Are you married?” she asks.
I shake my head. “No. I lost the love of my life in a car accident.”
“Oh my. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you.” I smile. “I ask you all of this because I feel Rob is still with me, so it’s good to know that you feel it too.”
“Oh of course!” she turns to face me and says “Don’t you worry. Another one will come along. Don’t you worry about a thing.”
“I feel that.” I nod and my hands begin to shake. I’m going to lose it.
“Nope. Don’t you worry.” she says again.
My hands continue to direct her hair with my brush and dryer but if I open my mouth to speak all that will spill out will be tears.
I am desperate to find the words to explain how all of this feels. This woman has touched my soul in a way that no one ever has. Her kind words, gentle but sparkly energy has made it’s way into my veins and it’s coursing it’s way through me filling me with more love than I could ever know. I am full of so much gratitude that I have no idea where to put it. It may not mean much to her or to anyone really but to me it’s everything.
I finish her hair and we go our separate ways. I have her daughter next whom I’ve worked on before back in May. I need a breather first and head to the bathroom where I unleash all my tears in heaving sobs, grateful for the release.
“I love you, I love you, I love you.” I whisper to Rob over and over before drying my eyes and going back out again.
Hours later, my client Jane is in my chair and I’m thrilled to tell her about the “eat, pray, love” thing.
“You know the movie came out yesterday.” she smiles.
“What?! I so had a feeling that I needed to see a movie tonight after work. I never feel like doing that.”
“Oh yeah. Maybe you’re going to have a spiritual revelation when you see it.” she smiles.
“I know right? I hope so. I hope I’m not blind to it.”
“You won’t be. You‘re definitely being guided.”
I tell her about my client from earlier today and how amazing all if was.
“It’s no accident that she was booked with you today. I have no doubt that she was supposed to see you to deliver the message that she did. I think she’s letting you know about things to come. You’re being looked out for.”
“I totally feel that!” I squeal.
She tells me about an exercise that she did in a workshop a while back that she’s trying to pick up again. It’s taking time each morning to write out a stream of consciousness. It’s writing non-stop until three pages (No more or less) are filled. Even if it’s just writing “I have no idea what to say”, write it out.
“You’ll be surprised as to what comes up. I’m not going to tell you all of why you need to do it. You need to see it for yourself.” she grins. “I will tell you that it’s a way of letting your inner child express herself. It gives her space to be and keeps your mind calm. Give it a try.”
Oh I will alright. I like it. It goes along with what Beth was telling me about giving myself permission to write freely without judgment. I feel I’ve done a good job with it and am excited for this exercise as it will further my writing into something deliciously unknown. I feel I’m still looking for my “voice” as a writer and I think this will put me on that path.
When I finish her hair I go to check movie times for “Eat Pray Love”. My heart nearly stops when I see that one of the times is 4:20pm. It’s the date that Rob died and those numbers find their way into my daily life from time to time whether it’s the time on a clock, a page in a book or whatever. It doesn’t happen too often but when it does it makes my heart sing.
Miraculously I’m done early enough to catch the 6:05 show. This never, ever happens. I’ve never gotten off early on a Saturday. I sit in the dark theater completely unaware that I’m alone on a Saturday night. I don’t feel sorry for myself but am happy to simply be with myself. It feels good to be in my own company, to take myself out.
A silly commercial plays across the huge screen. One of the characters is named Rob. I simply grin to myself feeling I’m in the right spot.
The movie starts. I’m ready. I’m ready to hear, feel, soak up anything I’m supposed to get from this. I watch Julia Robert’s character decide to get on her knees and pray when she’s not sure what else to do. Tears find me again. I have no idea why.
The movie continues. I already feel I’m going to need to see it twelve times. Half way through it the screen goes blank and the lights turn on. Everyone starts looking at each other. I’m giggling to myself being that I stopped reading the book half way through and here I am in the theater and the movie has stopped where I stopped reading.
Minutes later we’re asked to evacuate. The fire department is out in the lobby as we all make a mass exodus. Apparently someone pulled the fire alarm. My head is swimming and I’m annoyed with the huge mob that’s in the lobby. I decide to call it a night and make my way outside.
Now what? I ask myself. I’m hungry. Ok. I’m able to catch the train into the city. While waiting on the platform I pull out my journal and begin a stream of consciousness. I find it to be easy and I’m hooked. I hope it’s always this easy. I’m still curious after days of doing it, what will happen or appear.
I stop for sushi at one of my favorite places near my apartment. In thinking about the movie I wonder if God was needing me to be distracted while He got something else together. I’m not sure when I’m going to go back and see it just yet.
At home I get ready for bed. I’m so exhausted, the week hitting me like a ton of bricks knocking me face down into my pillow. Before my eyes close completely I ask God/Rob if there’s anything I need to know. “Tell me what you want me to do.”
The answer: Listen.
I roll the word around in my head for a lil bit. “Ok. I’m listening…” I drift off to sleep.

The Black Keys...

In my mind I’m in a cafĂ© in Paris wearing an oversized black sweater with leggings and boots. My bobbed hair is nearly touching my shoulders. I’ve been writing here for hours at a tiny table by a window, stopping to watch the snow fall while slowly working on a cappuccino.
My reality is much different. I’m in Chicago, it’s August and sweltering outside. A train is taking me home from another ten hour day behind my chair. My brain is so fried I can’t even read. I put in my iPOD and listen the soft piano music that makes up a beautiful song called “Clair de Lune”. This is where my mind takes off. It’s been happening more and more often this daydreaming. I like to think that it’s my over active imagination flexing it’s muscle but really I think it’s my mind’s way of escaping when there are no other distractions present.
My mind continues to wander, playing back the events of the day and the people I met. I worked on a girl today with bra strap length blonde hair and beautiful green eyes. She had me laughing with her story telling until I began to blow dry her after finishing her haircut. It gets hard for me to hear over the noise of the dryer and I get quiet. Once the dryer was off I started to comb through her hair carefully detailing her layers section by section, removing any hard lines with the tips of my shears. I can barely hear the music playing over the white noise of other blow dryers turning on mixed with the various conversations going on around me. My mind stretches, reaching for Rob, thinking about him in a way I don’t remember now to even say when my client’s voice brings me back.
“I love the Black Keys.” she simply states.
“What’s that?” I stop cutting and face her even though I heard her clear as day.
“The Black Keys.” she points upward. “I love them.”
I smile and nod. Funny she could hear it over all the other noise. The Black Keys was one of Rob’s favorite bands. I admit to not being into them much but always smile when I see a t-shirt or a CD of theirs.
I think about sharing this with her, sharing that I was thinking about Rob and then she said that. I decide against it, then think, “Nope. I’m gonna.” So I do.
“Oh wow. That is crazy.” her eyes get big.
“I know.” I giggle even though none of this is amusing to me.
My hand moves to pick up another section of her hair and I feel her head is heating up. I keep cutting watching her scalp and face turn a light shade of pink. I try not to regret telling her. I sometimes forget myself and the fact that other people are not connected to the things I experience or want to share…


I’m sitting in a pool of words and thoughts swimming around my raw, chapped little body. I feel I need to be in a padded room right now complete with soundproof walls and a straightjacket. These words and thoughts are desperate to come together and form something coherent but I can’t seem to make it all fit.
I want it all to fit. Right this minute. It’s too uncomfortable to sit here and let it all drift by without organizing it. My fingers reach out trying to grab hold of something, anything that will stop the free fall into something unknown but I can’t grab anything when I’m drowning.
Except I’m not drowning. It only feels that way. It’s like watching something on IMAX where it feels like you’re really there on that rollercoaster or next to that shark but you’re not. You’re safe in a theater letting the images play out before you.
I am home. I just took a shower and ate dinner. I can do whatever I want. It’s just me now. Isn’t that what I wanted? Why is hurting so much then?
I have jewelry to make, a journal to continue with, a book proposal I’d like to get started on this century and yet I can’t sit still long enough to touch any of it. Instead I’m taking the long way to the places I need to go to. I feel I’ve spent more time walking and on trains than at the actual places I was using those means to get to.
“It sounds like things aren’t coming naturally to you right now.” my new therapist Beth observes after explaining to her the structure of my days off.
I shake my head. “No. It used to but because of how my work days are, I don’t do anything. I save it all for my days off and sometimes, I just don’t feel like it. I fear that not feeling like it over and over again will end up with nothing accomplished so it feels imperative to get as much done as possible.”
“You’re very disciplined and I’m wondering if we just need to explore your creative process more and redirect how you approach these things. I feel they should be therapeutic and give energy rather than taking energy.”
“Definitely!” I beam.
“Ok, so I want you to simply try writing without an agenda. Let your mind go where ever it goes and write it down. Don’t judge it, just do it. For an hour. If you go longer, great, if not, at least do it for that hour.”
I nod.
“How does that sound?”
“I want it! I do. I’m nervous about actually doing it though. I always have an agenda.”
“I knew you would say that.” she smiles. “Ok, so when you’re writing and you’re getting overwhelmed, stop, and breathe. Really breathe deeply a couple of times and get back to it.”
My mind goes to all sorts of places that my pen and paper don’t capture. I’m not sure why I don’t record any of it really. I think some of it I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of what I might say or might feel. I’m also afraid of feeling silly or getting stuck so I say nothing.
When I leave Beth’s office I have the best intentions. Ok. I’m going to do this. I get on the train and head to Millennium Park. I walk around and look for a spot to sit and open my notebook, ready for all of this to pour out of me.
It’s awfully busy out here. I observe while meandering. I feel the warm sun on my back and a breeze pushing my straightened hair around my face and smile feeling lucky to be outside today, to have a day off, to be simply breathing.
I plop down under a tree and give in to my compulsive phone checking habit. For six months now Jeff and I have sent bagillions of text messages throughout any given day. It’s going to take a while to stop anticipating the screen of my phone lighting up or the chirping sound it makes when I don’t have the ringer on silent alerting me to some sweetness he’s delivering.
Opening my notebook, I find a blank page and sigh. A screaming seagull captures my attention. Some girls laughing next to me compete with the seagull and with all the people walking around…my head might start spinning. Maybe I picked a bad spot for concentrating. I write a couple of sentences then stop to watch the sun glittering through the leaves on the trees over me.
This is a bad idea. I need less distraction. I pick up and go again ending up at Filter, a coffee shop not far from my apartment. It’s packed but I find a table. I open the notebook again. I get a paragraph pushed out but am still judging, thinking a little too much and desperately wanting to simply let go but I don’t have a clue as to how to do that. I start writing again, asking more questions of myself instead of simply stringing sentences together.
Maybe this is just what it’s going to be today. I pack up after an hour and head home.
The sun is blazing but I run anyway, sweat racing down my spine. I try to remind myself that the writing will come once the dust settles and I find a routine again. My life was just enmeshed with someone else’s. I’m not tolerant of the fact that an adjustment is being made and all I can do is put one foot in front of the other.
Once I make it home again I try to quiet the chatter in my brain to figure out what it is I want to do. Nothing is clear. Well, one thing for sure is clear and that is a much needed shower.
“Just do what you know.” my high school art teacher would tell me when I didn’t have all the answers as to what direction I wanted to take a particular project in. I’ve kept that sentence tucked away with me ever since.
I go through the motions without paying much attention to the water spraying onto my skin or the smell of the strawberry scrub I adore. I get out of the tub and wrap a towel around myself sighing for the hundredth time today.
Once dressed I park my tail on the couch, turn on the computer and take a look at the submission guidelines for a publishing company based in San Francisco. I tell myself I can do all of this. I can write this proposal. I don’t have to have all the answers now but I’ll have them eventually.
Upon reading these guidelines the dermatitis that has plagued me since moving here is sparking. Not only is it eating my hands, it’s threatening to eat my arms too. I click out of the browser set the computer on the coffee table.
I take this opportunity to go to the grocery store and get veggie burgers. On my way back a (seemingly) schizophrenic black man holding a Walkman waltzing toward me is yammering on about God knows what then very coherently says to my face “I love you honey!”
I think of Rob and laugh.
At home I eat and try to be still. Nervous energy is pulsing through my veins. I have enough of it to light up New York City. I try to ask myself what I want. I want to write for hours. I want to write unabashedly until it’s all out of me. I want to be uncensored and unafraid. I want to hurl words in big, bold, all capital letters across a blank page. I want to sing until my vocal chords can’t produce sound and talk until there are no words left. I want to dance all night until the sun begins to rise. I want to cry until my eyes won’t make tears anymore, laugh until I can’t breathe, run until my lungs can no longer expel the air they take in and express myself in all the ways I’ve held back, then…sleep like I’ve just eaten a Thanksgiving dinner.
Until I figure out how to accomplish that, the chatter continues…