Archive for March, 2010

The Good Girl

I learned to be a good girl early in life. When I took care of everyone else, didn’t rock the boat, followed all the rules and met my parents’ high standards, I stayed out of trouble and earned the occasional grudging nod of acceptance.

I got married a couple of months after college and settled down. I was a good wife, supportive and enabling, tolerating it all and cleaning up messes as soon as they were made. I earned a good living and used it to support the family.

I had my first baby three years after the wedding, and my second three years after that, both on schedule. I was a devoted mom, putting my kids first and working long hours to both support them and spend quality time with them.

I finally divorced my ex-husband after nine years of his compulsive financial irresponsibility, not for myself, but when I began to feel my children’s safety and security were threatened by it. It cost me my faith.

A couple of years later I married Bryan, who I adored and tried to be an exemplary wife to. He was conservative, responsible, kind and loving and I tried to take care of him and the boys in every way. I was a good wife and mom, I had a good job, and constantly strove to be conservative and respectable and not rock the boat.

Then a year ago I lost Bryan, and with it a large part of my identity – wife. Loved one. Partner in a stable, responsible home. Instead, I had to try to figure out who I was, when I wasn’t busy taking care of everyone and trying to meet everyone else’s standards as wife, mom, employee, daughter.

Who am I? I am still a caretaking, nurturing type – that hasn’t changed. There’s nothing I like better than truly helping someone, preferably behind the scenes, with a hug, some long term support, an act of love, or anonymous generosity.

I am not, however, quite the good girl I’ve tried to pass myself off as for so many years. I do like to rock the boat. I firmly believe that “What the hell?” is often the right decision, and that I would, indeed, like to give ‘em something to talk about. I’m creative and artistic. Passionate about what I believe in. Very geeky. A little bit edgy and nihilistic. And more than a little bit hedonistic.

In the process of growing up a little this past year, I got healthier and set some interesting fitness goals. I changed the way I dress, a little curvier and punkier, becoming a shoe & jewelry addict in the process. I pierced my ears a few times and now wear colorful jewelry. I got my first tattoo, an ankle bracelet memorial.

The tattoo, in particular, is an interesting rejection of the good girl ethos. When I grew up, only sailors and bikers had tattoos. They were just not commonly worn, especially by women. Now, of course, for younger generations, body modification is a frequent rite of passage. As an artist, as a bit of a rebel, as a woman seeking beauty and meaning in my life, the act of permanently inking my skin with something significant is an important freedom for me.

So, here’s to shedding the old, ill-fitting good girl skin and finding one that fits better! I wish all of you a similar epiphany on your journey.

Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: creativity, health, rant | 10 Comments »

Time Keeps Flowing Like a River

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”
         ~Henry Van Dyke

Rose on the Sound

One of the strangest facets of loss is how it changes time.

You’d think time is a fairly straightforward measure. There are 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. Those numbers can’t adequately measure the experience of the human heart flowing through time.

I have lived 45 years. Raised children for 21 years. Loved Bryan for 12 years. And have been on my own, without him, for one year. That 12 years with Bryan, one-fourth of my life, still defines me – my values, my home, my heart, my plans.

How can it be that the one year since losing him can feel like it was equally as long?

I remember, in the initial days, even month, following the initial shock of his passing, time behaved especially strangely. I had the strangest sensation of being frozen, like a fly in amber, like a pebble in a stream, as life rushed on around me.

The night hours stretched out like an eternity — every night was at least a week long. In the daylight hours when I’d try to rejoin life, I couldn’t keep up. I’d notice something, consider reaching for it in the current, and it’d be swept far past me by the time I moved.

There were times when I slowed my life down to match time’s flow. Sailing, flying under the sun at whatever speed the wind chose to take us, allowed time to catch up and life shifted into focus. Hiking on a beach or in the woods, time became my friend; the birds ignored the passing of the hours and the only rhythm was that of the sunrise and sunset.

But always, I had to return to real life, the fierce onrush of work, deadlines, errands, housework, bills, and I then I couldn’t stay synchronized, couldn’t keep up with the flow anymore.

Maybe this year my own personal time flow will speed up a little and match the world I must live in. Or, more sanely, maybe I can find a way to slow my world down to mesh with my life.

Goodbye my love, maybe for forever
Goodbye my love, the tide waits for me
Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever
But time keeps flowing like a river (on and on)
To the sea, to the sea
Till it’s gone forever
         ~Alan Parsons Project, “Time”

Posted on Saturday, March 20th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: grief, health | 5 Comments »

Sea Turtles

This week I’m in Hawaii, in Waikoloa on the big island. I’m surrounded by fabulous friends who love me, encourage me, lift me up and make me laugh. The trip was the fabulous Barb’s idea. It’s exactly what I needed, and I’m excited to share it with Paulette and Angie as well.

Jeri & Barb

Just three years ago Bryan, the boys and I visited the big island. We had an excellent trip, with lots of sun, sand and adventure. We’ve been to Hawaii a few times (we’re very spoiled) but usually Kauai or Oahu. The below picture is from an early trip to Kauai, when the boys were fairly little.

family

In spite of my amazing friends, it was a little bit difficult coming here this time without Bryan. He loved visiting Hawaii, loved snorkeling, diving, beachcombing, golfing, driving around the island. On one of our most memorable trips, we went scuba diving off the south shore of Kauai, in Poipu, and we were surrounded by sea turtles. We knelt on the sandy bottom while the turtles danced around us in the crystal water.

Bryan and I had a travel ritual. When we’d go places we loved, we’d try to bring home a piece of art to remind us of our trip. We have a particularly beautiful colored handmade paper lithograph over our mantel of sea turtles, symbolizing the life cycle.

When I lost Bryan almost exactly a year ago, symbols like that became important to me. I wore a small gold turtle pendant he’d given me on a chain, circled by his wedding band, on a gold chain for months.

One of the rituals I did to mark his passing was get a tattoo. It was my first one. (My only one!) I chose to take the piece of art we’d brought home from Hawaii, and have it translated to body art. I’m proud to wear it not only to honor Bryan, but also as a reminder to pursue adventure and joy – to dive with the turtles when I can.

tattoo

Yesterday as we wandered Waikoloa, I fell in love with a turtle pendant. I got it for myself. For Bryan. It’s the simple, graceful sort of thing that I can wear most of the time, and probably will.

I’ll probably do something else to remember him while I’m here as well – toss a lei into the volcano or the sunset surf and say a few words. Still, finding and wearing the turtle necklace completed something for me.

Posted on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Jeri
Under: family, grief, jewelry | 6 Comments »