Thursday, July 21, 2011

Solitude Is Pleasant....Loneliness is Not

Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intact. ~ Martha Beck

I love this was the only one that gave loneliness a positive spin.

Of course, any post that starts out with a quote about loneliness doesn't sound like it will be exciting, funny and inspiring.

I will admit that you are correct.  Nope, no laughs in this one.....nothing inspiring like running a marathon or jumping into thin air 11,000 feet from earth.

Just a very personal, sole bearing post....about loneliness.  A glimpse into the feelings of a widow, me...and a lot of other widows/widowers I suspect.  This isn't a pity party - although it may sound like one - but it isn't.  It is reality.

There are a lot of pitfalls to being a widow....most of which I have accepted and overcame.  The one I cannot shake is the sheer loneliness.

Yes, I am surrounded by my three children, great friends, co-workers....I lead a pretty active life....I have a nice house.....I have a great job.  So what could possible be wrong?

Well, I am alone.  My kids are kids....and I am their parent not their friend or companion.  My co-workers are people I work with - and I probably spend the majority of my time with - but we are there to isn't social time....and I manage many of them, so the level of friendship is a bit different.  My friends are amazing....but they have their own lives, their own kids, their own spouses.....or they live far away.  And this doesn't sit easily with someone as social as myself.

"I had become, with the approach of night, once more aware of loneliness and time - those two companions without whom no journey can yield us anything." ~ Lawrence Durrell

It is that companionship of another adult I miss most.  Granted, being married doesn't mean you spend every moment of every day with your gets in the way.  I understand that....I was I recognize at times, there can be a sense of loneliness in a marriage.

The difference is.....the loneliness of a widow never goes away.  It hangs on - sometimes hiding for an hour, a day, a month.....but it is always there.

It has always been there....lurking in the background....but in the span of a month, two very close friends moved for fantastic opportunities (very happy for both of them) and a relationship I now realize I was much too invested in by trusting someone I loved to be a part of my life suddenly disappeared into thin air.  Suddenly my loneliness jumped out from it's hiding spot and became even more magnified.

These changes in my life made being along so much more apparent to me.  I suppose I had been too busy dealing with Brian's death and the kids to really ever notice it.

I used to be able to do things on my own.....but now I dread it.  I routinely went to Chicago for the weekend by myself, but I am heading there this weekend and although I'm looking forward to the activities that are bringing me there, I am dreading all the time I will have alone.

To put this in perspective,  think about the last time you were REALLY and truly alone....not for a few days....but for weeks that turn into months that turn into a year.....that suddenly turns into years.....and you realize time has slipped away.....and all you have to look forward to is more days, weeks, months and years alone.  It is an awful feeling and one I think most widows feel.....and keep to themselves.

We widows put on a good front....we have to be strong....many of us have children and jobs which require a level of strength just to get up and moving each day.  Over time, that becomes more routine....and we really don't have a choice but to keep moving - for our kids, for our employment so we can care for our kids.  But, deep down.....deep deep down.....there are a lot of emotions that we are afraid to expose.....for fear of being viewed as weak....for fear of upsetting our children.....for fear of impacting our livelihood, our source of income.  I often times feel trapped in my life and angry that others are happy....every moment of every day is a personal struggle at times.

I love my friendships, I love my children but I miss the companionship of being in a loving relationship.....of having someone wonder about you.....someone that checks in on you.....someone that just wants to hear your voice.....someone to be in the same space as fill that void and provide you with a feeling of safety.   Of not being alone.

Damn you cancer!  Damn you for ruining my dreams of growing old with the man I love.  Damn you for bringing hopelessness into my vocabulary.

To be clear, this is NOT a pity is the reality of my situation.  And some days I'm better at being strong and kicking my life into gear.

And some days I am not.

Something we all want and crave.....but I am also not willing to settle.....I would rather be lonely alone than lonely with someone.

The sky is one whole, the water another; and between those two infinities the soul of man is in loneliness. ~ Henryk Sienkiewicz 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"I Can't Wait To Meet Other Kids Like Me"

"I can't wait to meet other kids like me" - Rachel, 7 year old cancer hater

I suppose if you have been keeping up with my blog, you may not wonder why I support LIVESTRONG....I am not a cancer survivor....and unfortunately, all my loved ones were not survivors and never utilized not use the services of LIVESTRONG.

There are a lot of being to raise awareness since we were unaware of the resources available to us to assist in my loved ones' fights.

My involvement started several years ago as a method to honor the memory of my husband, dad, mom and sister.  Primarily as an effort for my children and I to heal from the passing of Brian.

As my children have grown, I continue to see firsthand how cancer has impacted their lives....and our lives as a family.  Over time, my involvement has become more focused on making sure others are aware of LIVESTRONG in order to hopefully allow their children to have a lifetime of memories with both their parents.

LIVESTRONG is best know for providing support for those battling cancer and survivors.  Most assume survivors are those that survived cancer.....but there is a large group of survivors out there that never had cancer but provided support and love for those that fought gallantly - both  successfully and unsuccessfully.  The thousands of children being raised in a single parent household due to cancer stealing one of their parents....or those living with the daily struggles of watching a parent suffer with cancer.

My children fall into this category.  I am lucky....I have great kids although there are times I wonder who has raised them due to their decisions or the outlook they have on certain issues.  But, I put my faith in all those that surround me that someday my children will recognize that I did the best I could with what I had available to give given our circumstances.  Still, I feel like they are being short-changed.

One aspect I hate that I cannot change for my children is the feeling that they are different.  I get this....I was them when I was growing up.  My mother passed away from cancer when I was young....but back then it was a taboo topic....and LIVESTRONG was no where in sight.

I made a pledge last November to run one race a month this year to raise funds and awareness for LIVESTRONG.  Unfortunately, I had to break this plan in June....I had a race scheduled but something much more important popped up on the day of the race.  I took a chance that you would all understand.

I had to deliver a very special cancer hater to camp.  This was no ordinary camp.....

My 7 year old daughter had the experience of her lifetime last month attending Camp Kesem at Northwestern University - a program which is recipient of grants from LIVESTRONG.  This is a camp for children that have or had a parent with cancer.  Some of the parents are survivors and others are currently in the battle, while others - like Rachel - have lost a parent.  The common thread....they all understood what cancer is, how it impacts families, and all feel different than most kids their age.

Camp Kesem is offered through different universities across the country and attendance is free of charge to the campers.  This is provided at no cost due to countless fundraising activities and grants from organizations like LIVESTRONG.   

Rachel came home a different girl.  She has always had a lot of confidence but it seemed tripled when I picked her up a week later.  A month later she is still talking about the friendships, the counselors, and the activities.  At least once a week she states how much she misses Camp Kesem.

LIVESTRONG is providing several $10,000 grants to other universities across the country to start up additional Camp Kesem locations.  With all your support over the past three years, I have raised close to $30,000 - the equivalent of 3 camps....and hundreds upon hundreds of smiles, memories and most importantly, reminders to these children that they are not different....they are not alone....they are important and have a world of opportunity ahead of them.

Your donations go towards providing these opportunities!  Over 80 cents of every dollar donated is put back into programs to help cancer survivors - including that crazy red headed child of mine.  Let's work together to provide the same opportunity for other children. 

This is why I support LIVESTRONG....why I run mile after mile.....why I am so passionate about the mission.

I will keep RunningSTRONG for Hope this year to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.  Please help me by considering a donation to LIVESTRONG - no amount is too small or too large - to assist me in my efforts to provide support to all survivors.
Barbara's LIVESTRONG fundraising page 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Two Miles Downward....JUMPINGSTRONG

 "Do not be afraid of death.  Be afraid of the half-lived life."
1 mile = 5,250 2 miles = 10,500 feet.
"What in the world is Barb doing?  She hasn't posted in a month and then she's giving us a math lesson?"
Just thought is was important to understand how far 2 miles you could grasp the depth of my latest adventure.
I have not always been very adventurous.  Actually, I was always the one that needed a lot of convincing and was at the edge with one foot in and the other out.  However, as I have gotten older, adventure is much more my style.
I definitely give Cancer credit for this change in my outlook.  After watching so many suffer and have their lives stolen by cancer much to early in life, I have certainly become someone that often states "what are we waiting for?"
Although I have not always been adventurous, I have ALWAYS wanted to jump out of a plane....but out of respect for my spouse - he was an attorney with an full understanding of the risks involved - I never did.
Recently, my VERY adventurous, risk taking friend Kristin, sent me a note as she was preparing to head off  to skydive on her birthday back in April.  I was so tempted to join her but activities that weekend wouldn't allow me.  She came back with stories that only made me more interested in taking on this challenge.
Then a few weeks later, I hit an emotional bottom.  Just a lot of "stuff" and it was Kristin that was there to catch me before I fell any further.  She heard the desperation in my voice and showed up at my doorstep, sat with me for hours on my front porch as I was unable to control the tears and sobs, listened without judgment, and supported me as I worked through some very, very awful and dark times.  (Let me state for the record that I had the support of several friends during this know who you are....and I love all of you!) And, over the next few weeks, as I was no longer drowning but had finally resurfaced, the subject of skydiving came up.
Why was I allowing this "stuff" to put MY life on hold?
What was I waiting for?
Certainly not the Barb you all know....letting life take over....but it happens to the best of us.  Slowly and surely, if we are not paying attention, you can very easily start putting your own life on hold.  I had allowed the negative aspects of life overshadow the positive aspects....and unfortunately, that still creeps in....I am certain we can all relate to that.
No more waiting.....I had been wanting to skydive for 25 was decided....I was going on my birthday....June 27th,
Kristin and I cleared our afternoon schedules for that day, and the exciting anticipation began to take over.
In true Barb fashion, my black weather cloud appeared on June 27th.  I awoke to thunder, lightening and pouring rain.  The forecast for that afternoon did not appear any better so our plans were scrapped.  Kristin however was not going to allow me to miss out on this off we went a few days later.
As we drove the hour to Champaign, IL to the Illinois Skydiving Center (with my cancer hating red-headed daughter in tow), it struck me that I was not the least bit nervous.  When we arrived at the location and I was filling out what appeared to be a ream of paper filled with warnings and waiving a lot of rights, still no nervousness.
I met my Tandem Master, Ken....and of course we started laughing right from the start....Barbie & Ken....and still no nervousness.  Ken strapped on my gear, gave me instructions but never once did he make me feel nervous.  These guys were fantastic....full of energy and positive vibes. Within a few moments, we were loading onto the plane - a plane I may add that reminded me of Fantasy Island and Tatu "Boss, de plane, de plane."  Although I suppose that plane was more luxurious since mine had no seats....and somehow we squeezed in 4 parachuters, gear and a pilot.

 As we taxied through the corn fields, still no nervousness.  As we ascended into the sky, still no nervousness.  Then, at 5,000 feet, the door opened up and one of my fellow riders disappeared....OK, that made me a little nervous.  She just stood up and disappeared from my sight!
Moments before the big moment....with my new BFF
Another 5,000 feet and suddenly it was my time.  Tandem jumping requires a lot of trust....I had just met Ken yet he was strapped to my back and had my life in his hands.  It took me a long time of dating Brian before I trusted my life to him, yet an exchange of money and a brief little training...and I handed over my trust to Ken.
 Anyways, I allowed myself to trust Ken and followed his instructions.  I found myself sitting on the edge of the plane door, my feet hanging out of the plane as there was 2 miles of air between my feet and the ground.  Before I knew it, Ken leaned forward and we were out of the plane.
A bit breezy at 10,500 feet

Off we go!
 I cannot even describe the feeling of freedom and exhilaration I felt as we were free-falling through the air.  I was actually a bit disappointed when the parachute opened just 30 - 40 seconds later.  Funny, I thought the free-fall portion would be the part I would dislike but I loved it!  

The next 5 minutes I floated through the air with my new BFF Ken, laughing and chatting as we drifted back to Earth. 
 As soon as we landed, I was ready to jump back on that plane again.  Alas, I couldn't but I would have!
So, what next?  No idea.....but I am keeping my eyes open and will not postpone a dream ever again. 
On another note - I am just $100 shy of hitting the $8,000 fundraising mark for LIVESTRONG.  If you would like to lend your financial support to this outstanding organization....and my efforts of RunningSTRONG for Hope (another race on Sunday), please use the link below to make a donation.  THANK YOU!!
Barb's LIVESTRONG fundraising page