Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Finding Balance

After driving all day Monday, I took this picture on a Riverwalk I found!  
Any idea what State I might be in? - February 27, 2017

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed these days and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Saturday was an in class day and when you read this, I will actually be on the road traveling.  My life has changed so much and seems to just keep changing faster than I can keep up with it.  It is catching up with me.  Let’s see if I can explain.

As purely awful as living through the death of a spouse is, in some ways, at least for a time, life was easier because it was so simple.  I operated in total shock and a complete fog.  Most of the time, I couldn’t have even told you what day it was.  From the very first, I stayed alone at night, but during the day, couldn’t stand to be alone for more than a couple of hours at a time. Friends checked on me and kept my calendar full.  I simply got up every morning, looked at my calendar and did what it told me to do.

Weeks went by and although I couldn’t bear the thought of traveling anywhere and didn’t have the mental capacity to plan a trip even if I’d wanted to, I did find comfort with a few different sets of friends within an hour or two of home.  I was also incredibly blessed to be given access to the mountain home of friends which was another place to which I could escape. 

As I look back on that time, as hard as it was, it was also very peaceful and simple.  And I liked that!  I knew better than to get involved in anything stressful and everyone around me was sensitive to my situation, no one asked or demanded anything of me.  I just went quietly through each day hoping and praying I was handling my grief in a healthy way. 

Little by little, almost imperceptibly, one day I realized my life no longer felt that way.  Once more, I was able to think, plan and manage my time without being led around like a child.  I am not even remotely capable of the level of activity I used to maintain, but I see myself inadvertently headed there and that’s why I feel so overwhelmed. 

It’s hard to admit that there’s any part of this that I’ve LIKED, but the simplicity of those early days can’t be ignored.  When I came in late Saturday evening after spending eight hours in class, my mind was whirling with all I needed to do in order to be ready to leave yesterday  morning for two weeks of varied activity along with the added pressures of having the condo secured, my mom taken care of, Bill’s mom taken care of, bills paid, mail gotten, blah, blah, blah!

And I will admit the thought crossed my mind, “is this really what I need to be doing?” or is there a better balance between total fog and where I am today?  I don’t have an answer, but it’s something worth thinking about and what was on my mind when I sat down to write.

So what do you do when you start to feel overwhelmed and has there been a time when you weren’t?  When you compare the two, where did you find the balance? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Bald River Falls - Tellico Plains, TN
January, 2017

Thanks so much for your feedback and support.  I had no idea what to expect or whether anyone would still find the blog to read it.  I do have an amazing support network of friends both in my town and across the country.  I suppose that’s simply a result of having kept up with college friends and from living in different places through the years.  But I always enjoyed the friendships created through the blog and those I had the opportunity to meet in person.  You might remember that I set a goal early on in the life of this blog to find a blogger in every state.  That idea still intrigues me and I can see an effort in the future to do that again.  One of my favorite parts of reading blogs in learning what life in like in different places. 

Oh my....those Flagler Beach sunrises! - February, 2017

I left Florida Monday morning and drove to the home of friends in North Carolina where I spent the night before driving on into Knoxville Tuesday morning.  Traveling alone has quickly taught me that my older (cough, cough) body doesn’t like sitting in a car for more than 300 miles in a day.  Monday’s drive was 485 miles and I paid for it on Tuesday even though I did some stretching and took a long walk after I got home.  Thankfully, I am rarely in a hurry and limiting myself to 300 miles or less gives me an opportunity to visit some neat places and get to my destination in stages!

My last morning in Flagler Beach - February 20, 2017

Each step gives me a bit more courage to keep moving forward.  I spent a full week alone while I was in Florida and that was a big step.  On my December/January trip to Texas (which was my first big trip and one I will write a full post about soon), I planned it carefully so that there was a mix of time alone and time with friends.  I never spent more than three nights in a row alone and that worked just fine, so I felt ready for more days alone in Florida.  And I did ok.  There were some pretty emotional times which was to be expected as I spent my second Valentine’s Day without Bill and the second anniversary of my dad’s death alone in a place that was very special to Bill and I.  But my philosophy is to gather the courage to face it and move through it.  Yes, the place was special to us and some would say find new places with no memories.  But why should I deprive myself of the beauty found in a place I love, where I am comfortable and where I am safe?   I’d rather face the memories knowing that the next time will be easier. 

When I got home, my yard was full of daffodils and my tulips were out of the ground!
It's February!  This isn't supposed to be happening.

I will be home only a week before heading out again.  This time to a conference, but with some fun adventures on the way there and back.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

She Travels, But It's All Different Now!

Wyndham's Emerald Grand Resort - Destin, Florida
January, 2016 & February, 2017
When you read this, I’ll be driving home to Tennessee with a stop this evening at the home of friends in western North Carolina.  Only fitting, I suppose, that this trip began and ends with friends who have known me for nearly 40 years and without whom, I’m not sure I could’ve managed the last two years.  Neither live in my town, but both have been right there in ways that have been major stepping stones in helping me move forward.

Less than a month after Bill died, I got a Facebook message from one of the first couples Bill and I became friends with after we were officially a married couple!  They knew about Bill through FB, but it had been years since we’d seen them.  The message simply said, “we are in Gatlinburg – we’d love to see you!”  I spent a full day with them and learned they were newly retired and planning to travel the country with their Club Wyndham membership. Little did I know how that day would impact my future.  They’ve generously included me whenever they’ve been able to secure an upgrade that gave them extra sleeping space and with them, I’ve been to Destin twice, Gatlinburg three times and San Antonio.  For that first year, it was perfect because they were going and whether or not I joined them made no difference.  At least once, plans were made and as the time grew near, I was going through a rough patch and just didn’t feel capable of making the trip.  And that was o.k. – nothing lost anywhere. 

Everybody needs friends like these! - February, 2016
Destin, Florida

Last February, they invited me to come for a week in Destin.  I felt I was ready and eagerly accepted.  It was a place we’d never been, so it held no memories.  I had been feeling twinges of that old gypsy spirit and had spent some time pondering if I would continue with the goals Bill & I had of visiting all the state capitals and all the National Parks.  The trip to Destin would take me right through Montgomery, Alabama, a capital we did not have.  I did just fine getting there, enjoyed meandering around the grounds and was heading back towards my car when it happened.  My toe caught on an uneven concrete sidewalk section and down I went.  A freefall that only spared a total face plant because I was able to roll to the side at the last minute.  It hurt BAD and a thousand thoughts rolled through my brain, not the least of which was, “you fool, what are you doing here all alone? You are hurt and there is no one here to help you.”  There was a good Samaritan who stayed with me until I convinced him I was ok.  I didn’t think I was ok, but I was mobile and just wanted to get to my car so I could fall apart.  I managed to get to my hotel room and get my arm/elbow and knee on ice which gave me time to think.  All I wanted to do was go home.  For sure, I had visited my last state capital!!  But I didn’t go home – for some reason, the next morning, my car turned south once more and I arrived into the waiting arms of my friends who took care of me all week.  I wasn’t much fun – that’s for sure.  I was in pain and I was mad.  They say we had a good time.  I can’t help but think they were just being nice, BUT they have continued to invite me again and again.  The pain and the bruising subsided, but I continue to have trouble with my knees and lower back.  One year later, I am blaming that fall and will likely begin physical therapy when I return home.  I’ve tried everything else. 

Alabama State Capital, Montgomery, AL - February, 2016

This is mostly what I did that week in Destin! - February, 2016

Unfortunately, there was a lot of this as well.  Best donuts I've ever had!
Destin, FL - February, 2016
(I'm still paying for those transgressions, but have been sugar free since early January)

One year later (last week), we were back in Destin and, ironically, in the same suite we’d had the year before.  The place is massive (see above picture) so the chances of that happening were slim and we saw it as a good omen.  I see it as a marker of time as a healer and friends as a miracle.   We had a wonderful time and I will see them again in April. 

As for the state capitals, I was certain that the fall was a sign from above telling me to forget that goal and find a new one. But I love the architecture and beauty of the capitals and don’t want to let it go.  Since last year, I’ve visited three more, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi without any further issues!  I only lack four east of the Mississippi river – how could I possibly stop now?