So much in so little time

Well, that’ll teach me! I haven’t written since the New Year and so much has happened. Where to start.

Well, I left Colorado for a California retreat. Melissa loaned me her spare van to make the trip, and I’m currently staying in Pasadena in a cool and funky experimental situation.

The van is liveable with a bed and a full kitchen. And then I rented an Airbnb camper. The camper is stationary, basically a permanent “guest house”. It’s hooked up to city plumbing and electricity so it’s not EXACTLY camper living, but it’s giving me a taste of living small and deciding if this life works for me.

It doesn’t look like much but it’s a full kitchen. I have a rice cooker, burners, tiny oven, and can make full meals.

The camper is very tiny but has a cute and nice-sized fenced yard around it. It’s working out really well. And if I can still say that in a few weeks, this will be my new existence. There’s a lot I love about it – freedom to live where I want with my dogs, flexibility to move around, and a lack of housing costs just to name a few. Downsides? Many. But the freedom and independence are worth it.

Emotionally, I’m actually in a pretty good place considering I was living in an ocean view mcmansion a few months ago! The reverse culture shock, the roller coaster, the tough adjustment, losing my independence, and gaining it again in just a couple of months feels exhausting at times but I have to say I’m in a better mental place than I’ve been in a long time.

Not everything is rosy. There have been some deep and dark challenges and I struggle with loneliness and a sense of purpose. But it’s all an ever-evolving process and I think I’m right where I belong.

My RA is strangely under control. I stopped the chemo drugs a while ago again because of the side effects so I’m drug free. The climate here seems perfect because I’m not having pain.

The dogs are great. Sadly I left Donovan in Colorado with my friend for this time. I miss him a lot but it was the right thing for him while I’m figuring this out.

I’ll update more often now that I’m in a bit of a groove. I’m hoping to share epic adventures and be able to see a side of life where I belong. 🙂

Peace.

~ Lisa

No such thing as recovery

It’s been a tough week for me. Being a guest in someone’s home is tough. You don’t want to intrude. But you’re 52 years old and have 7 dogs.

I had whittled down my possessions again, and except for clothes and toiletries, everything lives in suitcases now. It’s not easy to move into someone’s home and life. Trying to take up as little space as possible. Mentally beating myself up a lot right now, and feeling like a huge loser.

I’ve been really sick. 99% sure it’s covid. I’ve been sick for several weeks and nobody has really known how sick except a couple of friends. It’s hanging on and it’s pretty extreme and it’s most likely covid. I know enough people with extensive experience to know when it’s dangerous, and it’s kicking my ass but I don’t feel I need a hospital. Hospitals here in the area are at full capacity anyway and are asking those with symptoms to stay home unless they are unable to breathe. I can breathe so I’m okay.

I haven’t been able to take care of myself because my roomie is gone a lot traveling for work and personal reasons, which leaves me in charge of 15 dogs and 5 cats. It’s not what it sounds like; her 8 dogs are somewhat more of forever boarding cases, and not really family-type pets. They require twice daily physical needs met like food, water, and cleaning up. Then you try to squeeze in some emotional and social time for them too, but they can’t be together so you spend time with one dog at a time. Tending to the dogs means several trips up and down steps that are difficult to navigate 12 times twice a day. I knew she needed help with the dogs but I wasn’t prepared for her being gone a lot so quickly after I arrived.

The one benefit I am getting from being back in the US so far is the conveniences. I placed orders for recurring dog food delivery today and I ordered a couple of pairs of jeans. All will be delivered to the house ASAP and I don’t have to stress about finding dog food or going without clothes I need.

Holidays, all of these changes, sickness, among other things have me feeling pretty blue. Physically besides the covid, my RA and spinal pain are off the charts. Just off the charts. I need to get some medical and mental attention soon, and I need to make some choices for my own health and well being.

What a mess life is. Nothing is as I thought it would be. Nothing is as it should be. I’m just tumbling through some sort of existence that doesn’t allow me to sleep or rest, doesn’t connect me with circumstances that just allow me to heal and recover or even take care of myself when I’m really sick. I need to find my way and I need to fix this. All of it. Mental pain, emotional pain, physical pain, loss of direction and control, loss of hope in the future, loss of hope in general, homelessness, joblessness. A new location again. And the fucking holidays begin again.

Fuck.

Homecoming

As I woke up I realized I was in more pain than I could describe. I couldn’t move. My spine and my hips were fused into some painful twist and couldn’t stretch out. I was rocking side to side, back and forth. I could hear and feel every tiny pebble on the road beneath. Every slight turn, my body painfully bracing to adjust and compensate. And it all came back to me. I was 52 years old, traveling with all my worldly possessions, my dogs, and myself. Sleeping in the back of a cargo van.

Fuck. How the fuck did I end up right here, right now? How did I end up homeless, in the back of a van, depressed, lost, and with zero direction in my life?

I can’t even begin to describe my feelings. I can only say I’m really, really going through a lot. Things I didn’t expect/have never considered have hit me. Reality hits me.

The dogs are adjusting well. Me, not as easily. It’s great to be in a place where conveniences exist again. Where I can understand and communicate more easily. Where I have more options and more connections. But I also have to adjust and accept what’s been lost. Moving here was giving up the last piece of independence I had; my own place. I’ve had my own place since I was 18. I have to look towards a future I’m not prepared for. I have to seek what I need and know it when I find it. I have to start again.

Fuck.

Melissa my host friend is a super talented vegan cook.
So I’ll be eating like this 😁
Making friends
Comfy

My last night in the Dominican Republic

Tomorrow is the day. The day I have been anxiously waiting for. The day I get to leave this experience behind me where it belongs.

I’m having a mix of emotions that are hard to describe. And it’s a pretty big swing from 1-100. No in-between. Intense excitement, pain, anticipation, dread, confidence, fear, sadness, hopefulness, hopelessness. strength, fragility, proud, terrified. I feel it all.

My brain is scrolling through the lists: did I remember this, handle that, pay the other, get the dogs’ paperwork, put my passport in an easy place (after only one panic attack when I misplaced it and found it packed in a duffel bag). Is everything, and I mean everything, packed. My dogs are nervous and worried, I’m nervous and scared, and so it goes. The feelings don’t magically go away when I land, either. Landing in the US is not an ending to the emotional turmoil, it’s just the beginning of a different kind of emotional turmoil.

Here’s the thing. I think I can safely say that there is never going to be a day when Michael’s death doesn’t completely fuck me up in every way. No, I’m not in some deep state of “grief”; I simply won’t ever be complete without him. I’m working SO HARD to make something of what’s left of my life, and I hope that whatever I make of it will lead me to a happier “place”, but I will never, ever NOT miss him and I’ll never be okay with him being gone.

Realizing this isn’t upsetting. I truly believe that unless I acknowledge this and learn to walk with it, I’ll end up spiraling down. It’s okay to accept your reality. It’s also okay to say that your reality sucks. It’s honest and it’s true and it’s authentic.

For many months I have felt that there is a dark presence here; a black energy. There are many murders and suicides here on the North Coast. I haven’t talked about it in any sort of serious manner except with one friend in the DR, but for several months, serious suicidal thoughts took me over. I had a plan. I wanted to die. I felt stuck here in a place where I wasn’t safe. I felt that I couldn’t get out of this situation because of Covid and the flight situation and the number of dogs I have. After looking into every possible option, a private flight was the only way to get off the island right now. My mental health was/is poor enough that while others may think it’s ridiculous, it really was and is necessary to get myself closer to decent medical care for my RA and mental health resources. Luckily I have a loving circle of friends that pooled together and pitched in, getting me within $3500 of my goal. I had to borrow that, but there was no question. I need to get out of here.

This adventure has torn me apart. It’s taken so much from me and dragged me to rock bottom. Yes, there have been many good times, beautiful memories, and poignant lessons. But there is no doubt; this is not my place, my life, or my desire. I don’t fit here, and beyond that it’s a dark place for me.

I was robbed in my home while I slept a few feet away. I lost my vehicle and walked away from my house and my job at once. I then found a house all my own for the first time since I was divorced from husband #1. Later, I was sexually assaulted in my new home. The entire time, we are on lockdown because of covid ranging anywhere from borders being shut down and curfews that are still in place. For months, we couldn’t even go to the beach. So home is where everyone stayed. This threw me into a situation of so much isolation that it wasn’t healthy. And that’s when the darkness set in.

Some people say I’m strong but what is strong really? Is not killing yourself “strong”? I would say the only thing that got me through the past few weeks has been knowing I’m almost out of here. The business of readying for a huge international move on my own has occupied my mind and kept me from going under.

So, tomorrow one of my dearest friends Angela (who runs the horse rescue) is coming over in the morning with her big truck. Paola is coming with her because I’m renting Paola’s car. We will load up both vehicles with dogs, crates, and bags. Then we will drive to the airport, to a special terminal for private flights. I won’t have to deal with TSA and dragging the dogs through an airport. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Angela. She is my sister. For many months, we couldn’t understand each other because she spoke no English and I spoke almost no Spanish. But somehow, we got through to each other and formed a deep bond that we can’t explain. Saying goodbye to her will be very hard.

I’ll take my flight on a little prop plane, and I’ll land in Florida. There, my friend Melissa who is opening her home to me and the dogs will be waiting to load up my things into a fully stocked transport van, and she will accompany me for the 30-hour road trip home. As I write this, she’s on the road to come and get me.

After arriving “home”, the real shit begins. The recovery. Decompression. Gratitude. Not gonna lie. It’s scary.

So the next time I write, I’ll be back on US soil. I picked a lovely time to return, right? Why not plan to arrive in the middle of more political unrest and as the second wave of COVID begins? It makes perfect sense and falls right in line with the rest of my life.

Wish me luck for an uneventful trip, and let’s hope that as I lift off I can feel some of this black energy leaving me.

Life After Death

Here I am, a little more than 2 years after losing my spirit partner and the love of my life. According to other widows I follow online, this is just another phase and really, grief never ends. It morphs and changes and becomes less shocking, but in the widow world grief is really just coping with loss which of course never ends. It doesn’t necessarily mean sorrow. It’s just walking with your loss.

As I prepare to move countries in the middle of a pandemic and start fresh in another place I’ve never been and live with a roommate for the first time ever and give up the independence of having my own place to live, the sadness and the PTSD are in overdrive. I’m in a very raw place with it all, having extremely vivid dreams about him that are so clear they are almost cruel. So I think it’s safe to say that stress magnifies grief.

I also can tell you that for me at least, the more time goes on the worse it feels in a sense. While I’m not breaking down as often or sobbing at the grocery store (ok sometimes I sob at the grocery store), the depth of pain and loss and loneliness and missing him only gets more intense as more time passes. It makes sense; the longer you go without seeing or hearing from someone, the more you miss them. And the more you miss them (in my case at least), the less you care about other things. So maybe that’s why I don’t cry or break down as much; because emotionally I’ve reached a level of numb that just keeps me in auto-pilot mode.

Now that time has placed some distance between myself and my loss, I think of the future with very little hope. I think about dying alone. I think about and dread milestones, holidays, and birthdays. I don’t really care about my health and I SURE don’t care about longevity. I find immense joy in my dogs and not much else. I think of living alone with a chronic pain condition that is worsening, and no partner to help. I think of living without someone to love me and without someone to love.

There are some positives that have come from this too. It’s not all bad. The strongest positive I can see is the ability to WALK AWAY. If I’m not feeling respected or valued, I’m gone. This is an incredibly freeing, albeit lonely, process that has left me with a very small but very kind inner circle.

My private plane leaves in 18 days! I’m a little stressed because I still am not able to pay for it completely. But things tend to work out one way or another.

Peace.

~ Lisa

Chapter 3

I’ve changed the name of the blog to Chapter 3 now. Chapter One was the nightmare that was the death and immediate aftermath. Chapter Two was the nightmare that became my life in the Dominican Republic. Chapter 3 is now; leaving the DR, and settling back in the US in the near future. Hopefully without the descriptive word “nightmare”. But one can never get too confident.

I’m sure as time goes on, I’ll share more of my DR experiences. But I thought I’d put it into a nutshell for those of you who are catching up. In the span of 16 months, I have:

  • Been home invaded and had my car stolen while I slept just a few feet away
  • Lost/ Sold my home in MN because my renters screwed me over
  • Walked away from the job and the free house I came here for, losing my entire rescue in the process.
  • Lost my “circle” in the process of walking away from aforementioned job
  • Been sexually assaulted in my home by a service worker here to install internet
  • Taken on a foster puppy that has never left, leaving me with seven dogs, one of whom is said foster puppy that is a lot to handle.
  • Met a new group of friends who shunned me because I posted anti-racism things. (#blm)
  • Deteriorated rapidly with my RA symptoms and condition
  • Been taken advantage of to the tune of thousands of dollars, both here in the DR and by my supposed friend in MN.
  • Isolated for 7+ months now with ZERO human interaction except trips to the store.
  • Tried to date one guy who ended up being a stalker
  • Lost my best friend in MN (see reference to being taken advantage of above)
  • Lost my sanity

The sanity one has been a process, but I have literally found myself in a scary and unhealthy place when I decided if I don’t get out of here, I won’t live much longer. I just can’t do it anymore. There’s no safety, no companionship, no support system, no decent health care, no security, and no happiness here for me. It becomes a daily challenge to find something worth living for. It always comes back to my dogs. I’m here for them.

But then something happened. I wrote about it on my FB page, so sad that I couldn’t get out because I can’t get all my dogs on a plane, and my FB/ rescue friends rallied. These folks who I previously considered “rescue friends” proved themselves to be the true crew of people who cared and who had my back. They put together a GoFundMe to raise money to book a charter flight and get me out of here, and it has raised a little over $5000. I am so humbled and shocked and I’ve been so surprised by so many people that I thought really didn’t notice me much. I’m only a few thousand short of my goal and I’m borrowing that money if I can’t raise the rest. And that’s how the story has led to me getting off this hell island in just a few weeks.

I’ll be starting my US adventure with a friend who has very generously offered me a place to stay with my SEVEN dogs. I’m not sure what my end game is, but I have a soft place to land. It will probably take me a while to recover from this entire ordeal. I can’t believe all I have been through. But I am excited and grateful to have the chance to start over again. Again.

I’m not currently working. I was doing some freelance work but I gave that up because I found myself not enjoying it and life is too short.

I’ve learned so much. One of the biggest things I have learned and examined is the extent of my PTSD. The grief is always present, yes. But beyond losing my dad and my husband, the process of watching them die really impacted me. It’s hard enough to lose the two most important men in your life just months apart, but it’s just made more deep and complicated by the visions and the actions of them dying. Caring for and tending to their every need when they became helpless or incoherent. Those last comatose days. The middle of the night wailing, crying because they don’t want to die, unable to listen to reason and doing things that scare you to death. Losing them right before your eyes far before they are gone.

THAT fucks your head right up. So when people think I’m just stuck in grief, well to an extent I am. While I’m not walking around sobbing all the time, grief has become a monster that walks beside me. I’ve made friends with it. I know it’s there and it may not always stop me, but it’s ever present. And right beside that, the PTSD. The sights, the shapes, the sounds. The recall. The conversations. The good moments and the hard ones. The goodbyes.

I’ve learned that PTSD is to be respected just as much as grief. It’s not something you ever “get over”. You can learn to cope with the thoughts for the most part, but you still have those dreams that you can’t shake when you wake up. Or those middle of the night screams that make you sit up in bed even though they aren’t real. Or those fucking moments when you think you want to pick up the phone and text your husband or call your dad.

So…yes, I’m walking with grief every day and functional for the most part. BUT – I’m a more fragile version of myself. A braver, more honest version of myself. A FAR more self-aware version of myself. More than ever I assess what is important and what isn’t. What’s worth my time and my life and what isn’t. What I want to feel and what I don’t. Who I want in my life and who I don’t. It all leads to a more evolved (albeit darker and more fragile) me.

Until next time, Peace.

~ Lisa

Pity/Panic Party for One

Yep. I know. We are all struggling.

I’m trying to be a good friend and a good listener. I care about others. I’ve given money, support, and love to my friends. And now, I’m suffering.

I did the best I knew at the time with very, very clouded judgment. I sold everything I owned including my home. I uprooted and moved to a new country with hopes of rescuing animals. I had a job and an income and free rent. It sounded like it was meant to be.

Months later, I had no job, no free rent, and no income. But I was going to be okay. I was going to make my way. And I still had my tribe in MN.

But alas, here I am. 10 months after arriving in the DR. I am out of money. I have no tribe. My RA is in full flare-up and I’m in constant pain. My MN friends don’t check on me. The ones I gave money to, aren’t giving anything back. The ones I have listened to in the middle of the night, the ones I have helped in any way I could, the ones I was always there for – they’ve moved on and are in their own worlds now. Their worlds no longer include me.

Here I am. On an island. No way to leave but even if there were, I have no place to go. I’m homeless in every sense of the word except I have a house. I have no roots, no connections, nobody longing to see me. I miss a life and people that no longer exist. My oldest friends don’t exist in my world anymore. My new friends here are wonderful and kind, but they’re also in relationships and have someone to lean on. It’s not that they don’t try, it’s that it’s not enough.

My mind is starting to fight with me. I keep reflecting on all I have lost. My life. My loves. My parents. My rescue. My country. My health. My money. My confidence. My abilities. And now, I don’t know what comes next.

I can’t make plans. I don’t know where I belong. I know that saving dogs is all that comforts me, but the stress and people-part of rescue is too much for me to deal with.

I don’t know if I like myself very much. I see where I’ve landed in life, and I am so disappointed in the choices I have made and I believe I’m alone because I deserve to be. This is how things end when you aren’t a good mother. This is how things go when you don’t deserve to be happy or to have loved ones in your life.

I’m incredibly angry at myself for making the mistakes I have made, all of which have led me to this moment and this place and this life situation. I’m incredibly angry at the universe for punishing me so much and leaving me with nobody to share my life with. I have a long list of people who think poorly of me, and I have the life to reflect that.

All of the friends in the world don’t help when it’s the middle of the night and you don’t want to live anymore. All the messaging and chats don’t help when there’s nothing to look forward to. If anything, they just magnify how alone I really am.

I look around my island and I see people and animals starving. I see people with no homes. I have a home, a beautiful view, my dogs. And I’m angry that I can’t appreciate that.

Being quarantined with someone you don’t like is a bitch. Especially when that someone is yourself.

Be safe friends. Appreciate what you have, and do a better job than I have. ❤

Peace.

~ Lisa

The Experiment Continues

Hi, guys.

After a couple of months off the blog, here I am again! The past couple months have been spent processing, breaking away from toxicity, clearing my energy, and letting go. I had a really hard holiday season this year for lots of reasons, but I came through and now I’m coasting in a pretty chill place in my mind.

There’s a lot going on, much of it trivial, so I’ll stick to the notable things.

Yes, I’m still in the Dominican Republic. I dig it here! Are there frustrations and things I don’t like? Absolutely. But I’m not planning on going anywhere for a bit. I love my view, I love the climate, and I love that I’m not in the US. I love the friends that are truly friends, and there’s never a dull moment. 😂

I haven’t been doing a ton, but I’m taking steps to find my groove here. I’ve been doing some freelance writing for friends in the states mostly, writing blogs and newsletters and other marketing things. I’m also working on starting up a small cupcake side biz.

I’m still rescuing dogs. Not with any rescue in particular, but I’ve made lots of rescuer friends here and that’s been a wonderful experience. I’m itching to start something up, but I’m also really evaluating what I want and can do. I currently have two foster pups here, Newman and Donovan. ❤️

Newman – sweet mixed breed, 3 yrs old

Donovan- Pitbull puppy

My RA sucks here. I’m aggressively working on addressing the rapid progression. I’m dramatically changing my nutrition to focus on anti/inflammatory foods in hopes that I can get some relief. I’m committed to staying on the poison pills for at least 6 months. I’m spending time in the pool which feels great and helps.

Michael. Well, he’s always in my heart and my head. I’m still having tsunamis, but they seem less frequent. I have meltdowns and I also have many great days. I still break into tears sometimes for reasons I don’t understand and I’m very fragile.

I find myself wondering a lot if he’s disappointed in me. And that’s a heavy, sad burden to carry. I also have frequent nightmares and waking flashbacks. I always feel doubt and insecurity, wondering if he’s just shaking his head at me. It’s pretty tough.

I’m trying to discover who I am as just Lisa. I’m trying to learn where I’m going without controlling it too much. I’m just observing and seeing who I am.

One thing is for sure: Michael was the biggest thing I liked about myself. Having him was like having a built-in support system all the time. And that support made me confident. It made me an over-achiever. It drove me and lifted me.

He really was the best thing about me.

Now, I’m just…I don’t know. What I do know, is that I miss being someone’s everything. I miss having someone who was also my everything. I miss the team we were. I miss the trust we shared. I miss my partner. I miss having someone to hash things out with, to help me reason things out, to help me plan or decide big things. I’m just…I don’t know. Invisible.

It’s been a year and a half. And it’s not easier. I’m more used to it, but it is not any easier.

My life sentence.

Now that’s not to say I’m depressed or walking around wanting to die. It just means that my life isn’t the same. Never will be. And I’ll always miss him so much.

I promised an experiment when I started this. Sharing my private life very publicly, believe it or not, hasn’t been easy. My readers have been privy to all of it. It damaged my relationships with some, and it has earned me respect and new friendships with others. Come what may, the experiment continues.

Peace out, and I’ll be checking in more often.

~ Lisa

Taking a Break

I’ve always been an open book, and never more so than when Michael got sick and thereafter. I always wanted to be honest, and I started blogging initially because it was easier to post updates than it was to answer each individual message.

But now, things have changed.

Those who are in my life, are. Those who are interested in me, reach out directly. The list is substantially smaller than it was a year ago. And the time has come that I realize and accept that the openness I have always posted here, has hurt me. It has alienated me from some, and it has led others to think I’m insane. It’s led others to think I enjoy being a victim, or that I’m trying to be a martyr with a cross to bear. It’s caused some to believe that I’m dramatic, or that I’m stuck.

Essentially, it has just broadened the judgments about me and made me feel more alone than ever.

I learned some very sad family news yesterday. And I can’t talk about it. Because I realize that the things I post about are depressing and that they just further some people’s beliefs that I’m comfy being a victim. So I am now censoring myself here, and that defeats the whole purpose.

I have learned that just the story of my life in and of itself, when being told, sounds like I’m feeling victimized. Sometimes I am, but it’s not a comfortable role for me to stay in. People who know me, know this. They know that I’m continually working to be the driver in my life and not a passenger. They know the strength and the pain it takes to do what I need to do each day, and find ways to smile and laugh and have fun. They see the person who was brave and left the country, they see the person who was always strong before this and is gaining more strength every day. They understand that I may have bad days, they understand that my judgment isn’t always clear, they accept that my brain is on overload and that sometimes I’m not myself. They understand that I’m in a “mental health crisis” (coined by one of said friends) and they love me enough to see me through it. They believe in me and they know I can come back from this. They see more than JUST this mental health crisis I’m in.

victim

My losses and tragedies will always be my story and they will always be huge building blocks of the person I am. I can’t deny them. But I don’t need to share them with everyone either. Sharing has caused me more loss, and I don’t want to lose anyone else in my life. I also don’t want to put out any more negativity. The world doesn’t need it.

So for now, I’m taking a step back. I have lots on my mind to figure out; I am worried about my future and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to land on my feet. And I will. I always have. I just don’t need to put any more negativity out into the world, and I don’t want to receive any either.  I will check in from time to time, but for right now at least, I need to work on things privately.

Peace,

~ Lisa

Depression Confessions

Hello everyone 🙂

My heart is heavy today, actually the last couple of days. And I need to talk about it.

For starters, let me say that as a rule, people here shame me for grieving. This isn’t the case with EVERYONE – but a large part of the people I have spent time with in the DR quite simply have very little compassion or understanding, and they are of the 1950’s belief that you just pull up your boot straps, get over shit and move on. If you are in a sad place, something is wrong with you and you really should hide that because it’s boring, nobody cares, you’re a negative person, and nobody likes you. This, I learned quickly and harshly.

As Mr Rogers’ mom said, “Look for the helpers”. Fortunately for me, there are helpers and beautiful souls who do understand that there are many layers to a person and that I am much more than just this mood or that state. There are those helpers who cared enough about human connection to do just that – connect with me. I think maybe they’re surprised to find out I’m not the loser that others think I am, and I can tell you I’ve had some of the sweetest and most fun times with them. They are my people. They’re messy, they’re complicated, they’re dealing with their own stuff, they’re honest, they’re authentic, and they’re there. For good days or bad. They don’t say stupid shit like “well you have a lot to be thankful for!” or “well you know, the reason everything is sad is your fault for looking at it that way”.

Anyway, suffice it to say I have very limited outlets for my feelings and learned very fast that it’s not everyone is “safe” to be yourself with. I used to wish I could help them understand me, but then I realized that I have no desire to spend time with human beings who can be mean and who can judge anyone in my situation so I no longer have the need to earn their respect or affection.

But let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about how some days it’s all I can do to get dressed. Or some days, the thought of leaving my house is paralyzing. Let’s talk about how the chronic physical pain adds to the sadness. The medications that are kicking my ass, all in the name of some sort of improvement on the physical side. Let’s talk about the added element of PTSD and waking up to night terrors and voices and replays of horrific moments in time. Let’s talk about waking up in another country with a dead husband and the number of people you can really trust in your country is like, three – and there’s a whole faction out there that has belittled you, lied about you, and left you with nothing. Let’s talk about the friends you thought you had; the ones who said how much they loved you and yet never reach out; the ones who promised they would come to see you yet there’s been not a mention; the ones who have stopped messaging and barely reply to you when you message them. Let’s talk about the HELLIDAYS. OMG, it’s brutal and painful and sad to live through this time of year. Let’s talk about how in spite of all of these forces I managed to find a house, I am working on finding a car, I am building a small business and making income, I am taking excellent care of my dogs and the house, and I am making time to build the connections with the few people who don’t choose to think they are above me. I am actually creating a life, all by myself, in another country. Nobody gave me this house. Nobody is giving me money. Nobody is supporting me.

Yes, I have really bad days. And I have really good ones too. Do I suffer from depression? Absolutely. PTSD? Yes. Does that mean I don’t have joy? A sense of humor? Have fun? Absolutely not. Do these conditions define me? Absolutely not. They’re just another layer.

Every day starts anew with a beautiful view, a delicious cup of coffee, time with my life dogs, and a fresh slate. Some days are so amazingly happy, and others are empty. This is life. And anyone who represents themselves as always happy and always grateful and always on the sunny side is full of shit. Because newsflash friends: this is the human condition. We are not robots. We aren’t always “on” and anyone who claims they are is lying to themselves and to you.

Depression isn’t an attitude. PTSD isn’t “hanging onto the past”. Grief isn’t a mood or a choice to be sad. This shit is real. It’s hard. It feels insurmountable some days. I wish he had never died. I wish I had never ended up “relying” on others. I wish I wasn’t a widow. But I’m not going to hide from it either. I wish everything was different. But it’s not.

In the very beginning of this hell or as I call it the Life Sentence, a friend Cheryl (who just recently passed away from cancer 😥 because why the fuck not), told me something I will always remember. When Michael got diagnosed she reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to hear the good news. And the good news was that when this was all said and done, I’d know who my real friends were. She told me, even those who were there during the worst may not turn out to be my people. She told me that I would lose far more than just my husband. But what I’d be left with would be a treasure. And she was right on every single count.

I have lost much of what I “thought” I had, but anything I have lost wasn’t mine to begin with. I have in my hand a few beautiful diamonds, and I’m slowly adding another one here or there. The coal has all fallen away, and while it was and is a painful process, who wants a handful of coal anyway. It just gets everything dirty and taints everything it touches.

My diamonds know who they are.  I will always treasure them and carry them with me. The ones in the DR have had such an amazing impact on my life and have given me so many reasons to keep going.  And I do have true friends in the states, those who talk to me late at night or send me a quick message to tell me they miss me or they’re proud of me. They tell me the drama in THEIR lives because they trust I’m not a fragile cracker and that maybe, just maybe, I can be of help.  Leaning on me shows faith in me.

And that’s all. All we can do is the best we can do. We can choose to be diamonds or we can choose to be coal. There’s nothing “wrong” with me. And the diamonds know that. The coal isn’t for any of us to worry about. All you’ll get is dirty hands.

Peace,

~ Lisa