So last night I had a strange dream. Well, I had many little dreams, but this was the last dream I had right before waking up this morning, and its the one I remember. In parts.
In the dream, I was at the Marriott Hotel for Camp Widow, which I have been a presenter at and attended usually three times per year at all the locations, since 2013. It brings me great joy and healing both for myself and others, to do this presentation, and others I have also done at camp. Anyway, in the dream, Im all dressed up and walking with another widow friend down to the Saturday night Dinner Banquet that is a big part of camp. The walk seems to be endless, and there are many widowed people behind us and surrounding us on the walk to the banquet room. My friend Michele (Neff Hernandes, founder of Camp Widow and SSI) is sort of behind us/to our side, and being chatty with us as we walk. Suddenly my widowed friend who Im walking with says: “Hey, do you want to go and see this improv acting thing that Ive been doing?” Im confused, so I say: “Okay. Ill go see that sometime” She says: “No, right now. Its just down the hall here. Just a little detour. Ill show you the room we do the show in. I think youll appreciate it, being in the acting world and everything.” Im still confused because we are at camp widow and why is her acting course or show or whatever it is inside the Marriott hotel? But I keep following her and walking with her, because me going seems important to her.
We keep walking, and now it seems like miles and hours, and my legs are hurting because Im wearing a dress with dressy shoes which I hate. I ask if we are almost there, but she just starts rambling on about all kinds of things that now sound like “blah, blah, blah and more blah.” I look beside me, and Michelle is no longer there. The other widowed people we were walking with are no longer there. The chatter has stopped. A few people walk by us in the other direction but I dont recognize them. We keep walking, and I think that at some point it stops being the Marriott or we no longer recognize it as something familiar, and we keep walking. My legs are about to fall off, and now I start asking to nobody in particular: “where are we? Are we there yet? Where did everyone else go? Where is Michele? Where are our friends? Can we just go back to the banquet now? Im exhausted.”
She mumbled something to me about how we cant go back, and that we would catch up to the others at some point, or they would “find us” somehow. This made no sense to me, and when I woke up, I felt a combination of confused, lost, panicked, and kind of sad.
Of course, Im pretty sure I know what this dream meant.
This year, in the thing called real life and not in my nightly dreams, things have been rough in a number of ways, but mostly financially. We have had to make some cut-backs, because something has gotta give. For three years in a row, Nick has come with me to Camp Widow Tampa, which is next month. Sometimes we even present on the “Love Affter Loss” panel together, which is so awesome and makes me so proud. This year, he isnt coming with me, because Im not going. We had to make the decision to not do Camp Widow this year. It is pretty certain I wont be in San Diego either, which I honestly dont even want to think about since that one is in July and it really helps me through that week of Don’s death-a-versary. It just isnt something we can do this year, and its heartbreaking and it sucks.
I’ve also had to temporarily step-back from my role as Regional Group Leader. Nothing permanent or anything, and nothing official, just working it out with my co-leader for her to run the 1 of the 2 meetups alone, and I will be with her and in attendance for one meetup per month. Just for a little while. Again, this is all VERY hard for me to do, and my heart breaks when I think about it. It is purely because of circumstances beyond our control, and not out of any desire whatsoever. I love my widowed community so much, and I always will. Doing work in this community and volunteering with Regional Leader and writing in this blog and doing my Camp presentations – all of it is such a big part of who I am and giving back to this community who helped save my life in multiple ways in those early years of grief – it is so important to me. My widowed friends are people that I consider family, and that will never change.
What has changed is that I now have a family that I have built, post-loss. I have my Nick and we have our house and our life that we are creating and living and all of that. In times of financial stress or just plain ole hardships, sometimes we need to make hard choices and decisions, and right now I need to not go to Camp Widow and focus on our family here at home and ways to conserve and not spend as much money, until things improve. Nick and I met in 2017, and we moved into our apartment in March of 2020, and literally THE NEXT DAY the Massachusetts shut-down for pandemic began, and off we were living in this mysterious new covid-world. Our entire relationship of living together, home-buying, wedding, and marriage has been during the pandemic. It has not been a “normal” experience, and the jobs and career choices I have made these last few years have also not been normal experiences. Things are topsy-turvy and rarely feel stable, and we are always just trying to figure it out. Falling back on the idea that “we have each other” works for “normal ” people who dont have sudden death as their baseline, but for me, Im already in a state of panic as it is. Always just waiting for that other shoe to drop. Always trying to just relax and breathe into it and not go into panic.
Yes, I have found love again. But how long before it goes away? How long before death, or something else, comes knocking? And with all these changes in life lately, and having to step back and make some shifts with things, my mind starts to panic, mostly in my sleep, and I fear that I will somehow lose my widowed community, or that they will feel far away because I skipped Camp Widow one year. I worry that Im replaceable or they will find someone funnier or better and leave me behind because I had to say no this one time. I freak out that things will be taken away, because loss can make you feel like you are losing EVERYTHING. And I know this is just my mind playing tricks on me. I know this. But its still hard. And it still stings. And I still hope that these small but large detours work out for the best, and that they lead to even better things – things that maybe none of us expect or can see right now.
In the meantime, Im going to try and see the detours not as detours, but as slightly different and new paths, adventures that bring with them their own rewards and offerings. If somebody could just tell my sleeping brain that message, I would greatly appreciate it.