riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Going Back to Cali, Cali

The next time I post, I will be in Los Angeles again. I’m going for a 10-day visit, at the end of which I’m participating in a 3-day writer’s conference and speaking on a panel about Writing About Loss. Before I leave, I’m being interviewed on HuffingtonPost Live (tomorrow, Thursday, March 19 at 4:00pm ET). Needless to say, it’s a very busy time, and I’m more than a little stressed.

I’m excited to go back to Los Angeles, but also nervous. When I tell people this, they don’t understand why. I’m not sure I totally understand either. I did live there for 19 years. But there’s something about going back to a place you’ve left.

Part of me is nervous that once I’m there, I’ll regret having left, like I’ll be walking (driving) around feeling homesick the whole time.

Another part of me is anxious about being asked the same questions over and over again: “How’s it going in NY? How do you like it? Are you glad you left? Are you coming back?”

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that just the thought of being in such a big city, dealing with that traffic, makes my stomach tighten a little. I’ve basically been living in the woods for the past eight months — in a quiet, zero traffic, distraction-free, practically people-free zone. I’ve been in “writing mode,” which is a lot different than “meet and greet and speak publicly mode.” Yes, I’ve been to NYC periodically, but I stay with family in Brooklyn and tend to keep my activities local.

Another source of nerves (and emotions) is that being in Los Angeles will remind me of Kaz in a way that I haven’t experienced in a while. Living in NY, where Kaz and I never visited together and therefore shared no memories of, has been a sort of respite from all the emotional triggers that come with familiar sites in a shared geographical location. I know I will be alright, but it’s the not knowing where and when I will encounter these triggers that makes my nervous.

Finally, my heart aches at leaving Ruby behind (it was too complicated and expensive to bring her). I’ve never been away from her for this long, and am already feeling the longing. She’ll be staying with family and going to doggie daycare during the day, so we’ll both be busy. But it will be strange to be apart. Our days upstate are, if nothing else, an exercise in routine. Everything happens around the same time every day. We’re nearly always together, and she is nearly always off leash, running free.

All that said, I am looking forward to the trip, to seeing all my friends, feeling heat, going to the beach, meeting many other talented writers, getting as much done as possible, visiting the mountain where I released Kaz’s ashes and more.

A lot has happened since I left Los Angeles. Maybe going back will remind me of how far I’ve come. Maybe it will remind me why I left.

Ironically, this will be my first time visiting Los Angeles. I will miss upstate NY, but I’ll be back soon.

Looking forward to sharing the journey with you, as always. xo

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The Sweet Gift of Grief

Recently, I have felt a growing distance from my grief, and it’s been bumming me out. It’s as if I’m losing the sense of being Kaz’s widow. Even more disconcerting, of being his wife. The healing seems to have replaced something intangible in addition to the grief. Or perhaps it has become a thing in itself, like a scar that replaces a wound and then becomes a permanent fixture of the body.

I’ve actually found myself yearning for the earlier days of grief. The days when it felt like my heart was splitting in two, every waking moment an excruciating reminder of his permanent absence. Yet I could still feel and remember him vividly, and we were still together, still part of a union. So there was sweetness mixed in with the pain. Now the pain has subsided taking the sweetness with it, and I’m left feeling empty, longing for one or the other, or both.

Then three triggers happened this weekend.

The first – a dear friend got upset with me about something on Friday night (details irrelevant to this post). When I finally left work at 7:45pm, I drove home knowing this friend was disappointed in me and basically feeling like shit. I remembered similar times before when I had come home upset and Kaz had put things in perspective.

“Don’t beat yourself up,” he would have told me Friday night. “You apologized. There’s nothing more you can do.” He would have diverted my attention to the positive. “Hey, at least today was pay-day, and tomorrow Angelina is coming over, and Sunday is football, and you’re going to cook us dinner.” At that point, I would have nudged him and laughed.

Angelina is the new cleaning lady I’ve hired to come every other week. She is reasonably priced and sorely needed, but still a splurge. The last time I had a cleaning lady was when Kaz was sick. One of my former bosses had very generously donated several months of cleaning service. Kaz immediately dubbed these nice ladies “the help” (a year before the film came out), and mumbled about them moving his stuff around. But we both appreciated them very much. 

This new lady, Angelina, did a wonderful job. She also emanated a certain energy that I haven’t felt in a long time. It’s comforting to know she’ll be back every two weeks, and not just because of the cleanliness she leaves behind.

The second trigger was a dream on Saturday night, in which I visited Kaz in a hospital. I hate to see him sick in my dreams, but it was still good to see him in general.  We spent the time lying on the grass in the shade of a large tree outside his hospital room, just listening to the wind rustling through the leaves. 

Sunday I slept in and captured this classic moment:

Ruby in the morning

Then it was off to Agility class with Ruby, where she got to do the course off-leash for the first time, and see her pal Louie, the grey poodle I wrote about here. They’re both in Obedience and Agility together and quite an item now, play-wrestling before and after class to everyone’s amusement. Louie shows his affection by chewing on Ruby’s ears, and she shows hers by nibbling on his ankles. “He has a thing for female pitbulls,” Louie’s dad told me with a smile.

The third trigger happened when we stopped to look at motorcycles at a Honda dealership on the way home. “My late husband owned an RC51,” I told the rep as he showed me around. I could almost feel Kaz walking around with us.

Not surprisingly, I cried harder this weekend than I have in the past several months. But it was a good cry, familiar and somewhat comforting. I had been missing my man, and this weekend he came back briefly. His sweet presence in turn triggered the painful grief. But despite – or perhaps because of – the tears, I felt grateful.


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Wind Chimes in the Breeze

It’s windy out tonight. The wind chimes are singing and the trees are rustling, but the chimes are in the foreground. They remind me of Kaz. Of nights lying in bed next to him, hearing the wind chimes late at night.

On nights like this, I would sometimes close my eyes and pretend we were on a tropical island or somewhere warm (he bought these wood chimes in Costa Rica). The chimes were outside our beach bungalow, and the rustling trees were really ocean waves lapping at the shore just outside our window. If these moments happened after sex, I would picture the moon glittering on the white sand outside as we were actually sleeping under a silk canopy on the beach, not a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood. With my head on his shoulder, my nostrils filled with his scent, a combination of Irish Spring and his own natural muskiness (he never wore cologne or after shave), I would smile to myself.

Such is a woman’s mind. Or at least, this woman’s overly imaginative mind. We don’t always think like this. But certain things trigger us, like the sound of wind chimes on a breezy night.

And music.

As I mentioned, I went to see CLUTCH last week. I could write several posts just on what this band meant to Kaz and our time together. They were the most-listened to, most-heard music of our three years, which is saying a lot given that he was a musical aficionado and listened to music for a living.

Last week’s concert brought back so many memories. Seeing them in DC at the 9:30 Club, hanging with the band backstage and in their tour bus afterwards, seeing them at the House of Blues in LA, listening to them on road trips, listening to them in the ICU (I would play them on my phone for him), listening to them at his memorial (his ashes were released to their song “Electric Worry”). We had some of our happiest moments at their shows, and one of our saddest too. Because Clutch was also his last concert and we both knew it when we were there.

Seeing them last week was both joyful and heartbreaking. Afterwards, I went backstage to say hi to the band. They all remembered him. They all said he was special, a good spirit, a good man. They didn’t know what else to say about what happened to him. I told them they didn’t have to say anything more, and thanked them for the kind words.

It was wonderful to see live music again. Before he was sick we would go to a show almost weekly. He would go more often than that. Part of his job was to keep up on music. We saw shows at probably every major venue in the Los Angeles area, and several smaller ones too. We rarely paid for tickets and always had VIP passes. And he always had new music before it came out, which was a treat indeed.

Now I have no idea what’s going on in the music world and hardly ever see a show unless it’s one of his favorite bands.

But I still have the wind chimes. And when the wind gets going like it is tonight, it takes me back. A couple of times the wind has blown hard and the chimes have clanged about loudly. But mostly they’ve been singing in a gentle, rolling rhythm. I don’t talk about him as much with people as I used to. But I can still remember what it feels like to lay in his arms in the dark, under the imaginary silk canopy. He would laugh at my tropical island fantasy but not be surprised. He knew I was a cornball.