At a month away, June 1 is a daunting and solemn date for me and for anyone who loved Ken. It’s the date he left us after such a valiant and graceful fight. Maybe someday it will be easier to “celebrate’ it, as time performs her magic, and softens the jagged edges and fades the vivid pain of the last year or so. As for this June 1–I’ve taken matters into my own hands (probably with a little help) to find a very special way to commemorate the date. I’m taking a break from work; hopping off the hamster wheel, so to speak.
Grief has been like a sometimes exhausting maze. Running around through infinite emotional dead ends, sudden turns and reversals. It’s just the kind of exercise Ken would have excelled at–and would have coached me expertly through. A true improviser, he took no complacent comfort in “knowns.” I think he learned to prefer just the opposite, creating the perfect “why not?” yin to my “what if?” yang. If you knew him or me, or have read my blog previously, you know he was more good for me than I could have ever possibly hoped for–in several life times. Yet in spite of the loss of him, I can’t help but feel I was left with far more than what was taken from me. And that’s a thought that is never far from my mind–even on my worst day.
For the most part I really feel like I’ve done things “right”. I have managed to maneuver the tricky snarl of grief and loss in a reasonable manner–given how completely my life has changed in so many emotional, basic and important ways. To be honest, sometimes I’m amazed I am where I am. Then my next thought is usually “where am I?” It’s one thing to learn to live daily life and stumble toward my “new normal,” but it’s quite another to think about the bigger questions: who am I now? who do I want to be? where do I want to go? Daunting questions far to large in scope to consider in the aftermath of last year.
Like many of us, my plate at work has been getting fuller and fuller, and as that’s happened I’ve felt more and more inadequate, distracted and frazzled. I’m different. There is no two ways about it. Though my basic self has remained pretty steady, it will take some time to understand how loving and losing Ken has changed me. Ken was my spouse, creative partner and best friend. Learning to live without him–his physical presence–has been the biggest challenge of my life. But luckily for me I had another constant companion who I unfailingly turned to–particularly in the darkest of times: writing, as this sanity-saving blog hopefully demonstrates.
In struggling at work–a place full of truly talented and wonderfully kind people who were all so supportive of me during Ken’s illness and death–I’ve racked my brain tirelessly as to how I can satisfy my writing self while still managing to keep a roof over my head, gas in my car and food in my belly. I started knocking around the idea of leave of absence right after the holidays. Still, I thought, “this is something OTHER people do. I should just suck it up, do my job, and enjoy the security I have.” But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The chance to take some time to consider my life as I now know it and to live in the now as a writer…made sense to me.
In doing some further research I learned my company actually offers a couple of different kinds of LOA’s, based on the situation and need. I was reading a book on the subject recently, as many people are considering what I’m considering. An appendix in the booked offered “Companies That Get It.” When I turned to it, there was my company’s name, seemingly in bigger letters than any of the others. Another indication it was the right decision for me.
Ken’s voice has been very loud and clear in this regard. He lived his life with bravery and courage every single day–in good health and in poor. I’ve heard and seen his “why not?” attitude regularly in blaring stereo and in blinding Technicolor over the past few months. It’s a pull I couldn’t ignore any longer. So, a month ago I took a deep breath and composed an email to my team and leadership, informing them of my decision and asked for their assistance in helping me figure it out–which they are.
Meantime, at home I’ve created a “vision board” of sorts, where I scribble ideas and develop priorities for my time off: which writing projects I’ll target, how I’ll manage my time, what I expect to get out of it. This is a great opportunity to accomplish some projects I’ve been struggling with–to focus only on writing. I plan to blog nearly every day to document the 90-day journey of “living as a writer.” I don’t want to forget a single nuance.
So, it’s one month and counting–for the worse and for the better. June 1 will take on additional significance as not only the day that I lost the truest love I could ever imagine, but a day when I took: a page from his book, a deep breath, and a flying leap toward my future.