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This blog started as a record of my move from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR, all for the sake of true love.

It ended up being a memoir of losing my partner to metastatic colon cancer, and my journey through grief after he died.

Now it’s a journal of my life, through grief and beyond.

If you are interested in reading only my grief posts, they are tagged “grief”. If you are going through a grief journey of your own, I hope my words help you.  

Welcome.

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Embracing the suck

Sometime in September of 2017, I was feeling physically awful all the time, and started feeling like if I didn’t get into shape now-right-now, I was never going to, I was not going to live very long, and what time I had left was going to be spent in misery.

I have no idea how accurate those feelings were, but they propelled me into a major change.

As I’ve often said, I’ve never been in shape, beyond whatever “shape” we get at birth. It’s been pretty much downhill from there physically. I’m sedentary by nature, being a reader of books and watcher of video and typer of words.

I started out as a bone-skinny kid and young adult. Somewhere in my mid-twenties, my super-metabolism shifted more toward normal, but my eating habits of a lifetime didn’t change. So I started putting on weight. After I cheated on my husband in my early thirties, I consciously started eating, both to make myself less attractive to men in general and to test my husband to see if his love for me was strong enough to survive me getting fat. (Yes, I do know exactly how twisted that is. But that’s my truth.)

So slowly, and then not-so-slowly, I got fat. And stayed fat. And learned how to mostly cope with my fatter body.

But the eating I did after Jay died put me in a whole new dimension of fat. My joints ached all the time. I couldn’t move without hurting. That’s what scared me so much that I forced myself into motion. I decided it was time to embrace the suck of undoing the damage I’d done to myself.

I promised myself I’d do a year of near-daily exercise and see where I was at the end. Clearly, I’m not at the end of that year yet. But I just finished a 100-day cycle of more focused body movement, and I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m both surprised and proud.

I can now do a simple sun salutation with only a bit of awkwardness. (And I have Jessamyn Stanley’s Every Body Yoga to thank for that. Thank god for yoga that knows how to work with a fat body.)

I’m learning tai chi, which has been such a blessing for my joints as well as adding another meditative aspect to my life.

I’m doing interval training on an exerbike, which is probably the only thing that would ever get me on an exerbike for the simple reason that it forces me to pay attention to my speed and timing so I don’t have time to get bored. I’m still not riding very fast, because part of my goal is to heal my insulin resistance, and riding at a speed that gets me out of breath but not sweating is part of that healing.

And I’m doing weights with clubbells, which is probably my favorite part of this program. I just purely love swinging those clubs.

And the results? Since I started, I’ve lost 4″ around my middle. I’ve gone from barely being able to ride the exerbike to being able to do a full set of intervals at a decent speed. I’ve gone from being 7″ away from touching my toes to being 4″ away. (That’s huge for me – I can’t remember the last time I was able to touch my toes.) I feel better, I move better, I’m less miserable all the way around.

Can’t wait to see where I am at the end of the year I promised myself, and to see how much further I can go from there.

A week of mix-and-match, and a glutening

Menu plan for the week:

  • chicken:  rotisserie
  • meat: pork chops; pot roast; meatballs
  • rice/carb: pasta
  • veg: nothing planned
  • salad: caesar salad

Monday

Another crazy work weekend, so again I went to the store on Monday. I had my meal plan in place and literally just before I was going to write out my grocery list, I had a hankering for meatballs. So ground beef got added to the list.

I brought home a lovely rotisserie chicken, which I promptly used some of to make a chicken caesar salad, one of my favorite summer dinners. I did that again later in the week as well, so none of the salad mix went to waste.

But this made me realize why I struggle so much with eating during the summer. My best proteins are dense ones, which really does mean beef, and most of the dishes I like best with beef are too heavy for summer. So I continue to struggle …

Tuesday

I put the pot roast in the crock pot to cook, and made the meatballs for lunch. I’ve been so heads-down in work (like working nearly 7 days a week for weeks) that the break from that routine and the rhythm of rolling the meatballs was therapeutic. Plus they were just so yummy, as usual. One of my favorite forms of comfort food. I’m reminded every time I eat them why I can never be a vegetarian: my body feels most grounded when I’m eating dense protein.

Rest of the week

I combined some of the pot roast with brown rice and brown gravy, which wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered it being. It also was the first step to a gluten attack later in the week where tater tots were the last ingredient. Man, was I sick that night. Glad for ginger tea, benadryl, and pepto bismol.

Tossed the brown gravy mix in the trash. Ain’t doing that again.

I also had some pasta left over from the meatball extravaganza, and made some peanut sauce to with that and some chicken. That was super-yummy, as always.

Roy also grilled late in the week some steaks, pork chops, and burgers we had in the freezer. Those were yummy, and a good extension of our protein for the week.

 

Busy week, but good food

Menu plan for the week:

  • soup: lasagna soup
  • beans:  none
  • chicken:  whole poached
  • meat: pulled pork (leftover, from freezer); pork chops
  • rice/carb: plain
  • veg:  broccoli; collards (leftover, from freezer)

Tuesday

Last week’s craziness spilled over into the weekend, so I ended up not shopping for groceries until Monday.

Tuesday, I put a whole chicken in the crock pot to poach, with plans to eat it in some form for dinner.

For lunch, I made lasagna soup. This is one of my favorite go-to meals, so quick and yummy and grounding. It’s easy to make it gluten-free – I make it with brown rice lasagna noodles and the italian sausage is gluten-free. It would also be easy to make it dairy-free: just don’t put the ricotta in your bowl and don’t put the parmesan cheese (I actually used a multi-cheese blend) on top. Easy peasy. And we always eat every single bite.

Rest of the week

Roy ended up going to the store to buy some things and came home with some utterly lovely t-bone steaks, which he grilled. We ate from those for a lot of the rest of the week. I make fried rice with them one day, which turned out really well. I love this recipe – it’s one of my go-to ones, especially when I’ve got leftover meat to do something with. I use frozen mixed veggies instead of the vegetables in the ingredients, and it works like a charm. I also recommend not removing the pan from the heat as recommended in step 4 – adding the soy sauce (I use tamari) with the heat still going makes a huge difference to the flavor of the finished dish.

I made a couple of rounds of chicken salad with the poached chicken, and used the pulled pork to make a couple of pulled pork sandwiches. It was all so yummy.

All the different seasons

In October, I’ll have lived in Oregon for six years, just a year shy of the time I spent in Baltimore before I moved here.

One of the things I still haven’t gotten used to is how different the seasons are here than on the east coast.

For instance, right now, it’s still twilight at 9:20. That’s normal for this time of year, of course. But my body expects brutal heat and humidity – that’s late spring in Maryland. But here, it’s cool in the evenings and at night, and mostly only moderately warm in the daytime. That confuses the hell out of my body. Is it spring? It is winter still? It can’t be summer, even though the length of the day would indicate that it is.

The joke is that summer starts in Portland on July 5th. That’s not far wrong. When it comes, it can be every bit as brutal as a Maryland summer, though it tends to be a more dry heat, or it feels like that, at least. But by July 5th, my body expects heat, humidity, sweat, air you can drink and can only barely breathe. Here it’s more like I imagine a desert summer would be, and I tend to hibernate – or, more accurately, estivate – rather than waiting till winter for that.

Fall is pretty much like I expect, except for the rain, which is often relentless. It’s always a shock when the endless sunny days give way to the endless gray skies, but it’s a change I relish and welcome. That’s my favorite weather. But the trees don’t change with the brilliant colors that the east coast trees show off. So my body forgets that it’s fall.

And winter makes me a bit crazy. It gets cold here, just like it did in Maryland, but there’s generally less winter-type precipitation and more just plain rain. Plus there are so many evergreen trees all over that even when the deciduous trees lose their leaves, it never looks as barren as it does where the deciduous trees are more numerous. To my eye, it never really looks like winter, even when it snows. There’s too much green for my mind to think it’s winter, so except for my issues with SAD, I never really shift into winter gear.

All of this difference adds up to temporal confusion for me – I’m often not quite sure what time of year I’m in, or what the next season would be. Some of that is a break in my brain caused by the grief of Jay’s death – that disconnected me pretty severely from normal time and I still often have to consciously count backwards to figure out how long it’s been since I met him, since we were together, since he died.

I don’t think I have a point here, other than noticing how different things are here in my current home, and being aware of how the differences disorient me sometimes.

And I certainly can’t complain about sleeping with the windows open in the middle of June every year.

Mixed success, with some bad success

Menu plan:

Oh, well

So this week went to hell in particularly spectacular fashion, for cooking at least.

I made the hoisin chicken, with what my late partner Jay would call “bad success”. It had been so many years since I’d eaten hoisin sauce that I’d forgotten how painfully sweet it is. Blech. If I were inclined to make that recipe again (which I’m really not), I’d cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, cut the hoisin at least in half, up the tamari and mustard, and maybe find another flavor to add in there to cut the sweet even more.

The peanut chicken got pre-empted for grilling the chicken thighs instead.

The taco meat turned out well, and I made tacos twice with them. That’s one recipe I’d definitely make again.

No soup and no kale made, and no broccoli, either, although that will survive into next week.

Luckily, Roy grilled salmon as well as the chicken thighs, and that was yummy.

 

 

Comfort food

Menu plan for the week:

The end of May is always a tough time emotionally for me. In 2014, these were the last days of Jay’s life, after all the struggle of the previous two years to keep him alive. (Yes, his struggle was longer than two years, but that was what I was part of.)  On top of that, 5/27/10 was the death date of my late ex-mother-in-law, so that adds to the whole grief stew.

Comfort food is definitely in order this week. Lots of familiar stuff here.

Sunday

Grocery shopping again on Sunday. For a while, I was doing my shopping on either Monday or Tuesday – a perq of working at home and being a freelancer. But as my work increased, it just became easier to go back to shopping on the weekends, like the average working person.

Rest of the week

This week pretty much went to hell in a spectacular fashion, at least for cooking. Between being low energy from PTSD and using what energy I had on my current work project, I didn’t have a lot left for cooking.

I made the sesame beef and the goulash early in the week, although in my brain fog, I utterly forgot to put the bay leaves in the goulash. With your average grocery store bay leaf, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’ve fallen in love with Penzey’s bay leaves. These things are amazing. They have an earthy scent that makes just opening their envelope a heady sensual experience. And they make such a difference in flavor in anything they go in. So forgetting to put them in the goulash was nearly tragic.

I never did made any miso soup or the garlic noodles, and the rest of the bean soup went to waste. Luckily, I’d frozen about half of the bean soup leftovers before this week, so we have some for the future.

Also luckily, Roy went to the store on Tuesday for grillables (we both managed to forget to shop in time for Memorial Day cooking-out), and came home with a lovely assortment of pork chops, trout, and brats. That filled in the holes in the week’s food quite nicely, with the addition of some pasta and a pot of brown rice.

Still, the goulash filled a nice spot as comfort food, even if the other things I wanted for that either didn’t get eaten (by me) or didn’t get made.

I built a shrine, I set a monument, because you’re fire, because you’re a fire escape

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Jay’s death. It seems impossible that he’s been gone that long, twice as long as I knew him, and it seems like he died only yesterday.

The effects of Jay’s death are visible on my body. I ate myself into two new clothing sizes, adding somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds, after he died. I don’t know exactly how much, since of all the things I was attending to as he died, my weight was certainly not one of them.

At the time, I told myself I was eating my grief, and while that was true, it was only half of the story. The other half was that I was so angry at him for how he treated me in the last half of our relationship and so angry at myself for letting him treat me that way that I ate to drown out the anger. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge it, much less deal with it.

Now, four years later, I’ve processed so much of the grief and anger and all the other things in that emotional stew pot that I’m experiencing waves of sadness. My heart is finally ready to feel the sadness for what my body and heart went through during Jay’s last months, and after. I can safely feel and process the sadness around his death, the death of our relationship, his unrelenting self-centeredness, and my nigh-unto-pathological need to fulfill the legend of “the partner that didn’t leave”.

The burden of all of that nearly broke me.

But I’m hoping now that I can continue to just sit with the sadness, see it for what it is, let it *be* what it is, process it, and move on.

I’d really like to stop having April and May be months of dread and despair.

For one thing, the mid-to-end of May has brought daily migraines and the return of armoring, both of which leave me cranky, in pain, and less-than-willing to move, though movement would help both the migraines and the armoring. My tai chi and yoga practices help, but only if I get my rear in gear and actually *practice*.

It’s frustrating to take these steps backward, even though I know they’re only temporary.

On the other hand, this is one way to measure how far I’ve come, to remember what it was like to live like this all the time, and how good it feels when I’m not living like this. I’m trying to focus on that, with gritted teeth and clenched fists.

This discomfort, both emotional and physical, will pass, and I’ll be more at home in my body and heart until the inevitable next wave comes, long about September.