Saturday, August 22, 2015

Am I An Idiot?

Why did I choose to audition for American Idiot?

I don't know ....

It's Green Day .....

That's all I knew about this musical .....

I'd never even considered auditioning for a play let alone a musical.

Ben was a performer!  Any chance he got he would love to have an audience.  If there was a TV camera around, he'd find a way to get interviewed.  Talent show?  Sign him up!  Even when we were on vacation in Jamaica!  And he was talented.  He was especially good at impressions!  He could do all kinds of voices from Bugs Bunny and Kermit the Frog, to singing and sounding just like Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Bob Marley and lots of other well known singers.  I used to tell him he should have his own show in Vegas.  In addition he loved to act.  He did several plays in high school and loved to tell the story of being an extra in the movie "Con Air" with Nicholas Cage.  He was fun and funny and full of life.  People gravitated to him.  He was the one people wanted to talk to at an event or a party.  

That's why so many were shocked when they heard he died by suicide in March of 2010.  It was hard to believe this man who loved to make people laugh was so sad on the inside. 

When our family moved to Temecula,  it was only five months after he died.  Kellie was starting middle school, Josh was in fourth grade and Olivia was going to Kindergarten.  We didn't know anyone in the area and were just trying to figure out what life looked like without Ben in it. 

Fast forward a few years and we were told about this little theater group by a neighbor that had just moved in.  Olivia was so excited and had absolutely decided she had to audition for a part in their upcoming production of "Shrek".  Little by little our whole family got "sucked in" to the theater, I was choreographing and I got the other kids to try parts as well.  

Then I heard the theater was doing Green Day's "American Idiot".  This was music that I had loved for years.  Something just clicked in me and I knew I had to audition!  What?!!?!  Me!?!?
But yes, I just knew I had to.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into....

If I had any idea about the story line in this musical I would NEVER have done it.  

Ben was a soldier in the US Army.  He went to basic training exactly one week after we got married.  "Home is where the Army sends you" became our mantra.  I told Ben that my home was in his arms.  Unfortunately sometimes he had to go on assignments without his family, so there were times in our marriage that I was "homeless".  

The first few songs of the musical were ones I knew well and I didn't really feel any connection to.  I was so busy learning how to sing and dance at the same time that I was lost in the process.  It was about this point that I figured out there was a suicide in the musical.  It was the exact type of death that I lost Ben to.  I was relieved to find that the death was not an actual person, but the "killing off" of an alter-ego that was troublesome to the main character.  Yet I was concerned about how it would be depicted and if it would bring up emotions for me or my children.  It turns out that I was one of three choreographed to catch "St. Jimmy" after he shoots himself and carry him off stage.

     The story breaks off into three different parts, one of which is a soldier who goes off to war and gets injured by an explosion.  As an ensemble character I played both the part of a soldier and later a nurse who cares for the injured soldiers.  My two favorite songs on the show are "Before the Lobotomy" and the reprise of that song.  I just loved the harmonies in it.  It's a sad song sung by the soldiers who are hospitalized from their war injuries.  The first starts with one soldier and then it adds on one at a time until four are singing together.  The reprise starts with all four singing and one by one they go out until just one remains.  What I did not know until the rehearsal for that song is that they go out one by one because they each die from their injuries leaving only the main soldier.  I have many friends who lost their loves to war.  Just another reason I would have not auditioned had I known. 

     I almost got through the entire rehearsal schedule without even crying.  Then one day I was listening to one of the last songs in the show, and the although the story line doesn't apply to me, the three words I had to sing were so familiar to me "Where'd you go?".  Luckily I was alone in my car when I heard that song for the first time.  

     At the end of the show the three friends that have separated for different reasons,  return home.  It's in that number that I feel like I've gained life long friends through this show.  We get to hug each other and sing about coming home.  It's bittersweet for me, but for a moment I get to feel at home again.  

     The final song is one where one of our main characters sings about "the one that got away".  A line in it says "thought I ran into you down on the street, but it turned out to only be a dream", I can relate to that line so much, I know many of my widowed friends can too.  I've mostly stopped looking for Ben in crowds anymore, but a broad tall bald man in Army fatigues will still take my breath away for a moment. 

     In the end, what should have sent me over the edge, was strangely healing.  I have no doubt that Bens hand was in "pushing" me to do this.  If he were still here, he would have been in it and I would have been cheering him on in the audience.  I wouldn't have even thought of doing it.  I think I'm starting to understand what my therapist meant when he told me to take the things I loved about Ben and make them a part of me.  I definitely didn't think he meant this.... But I'm a different person than who I was when Ben was here with me.  I'm still figuring out this new person, she's much more fearless in some ways,  and totally terrified in others. 

   I'm grateful for the friends I've made in the past five + years.  A special thanks to my bestie Mia who played the harmonies on the piano on every song for me so I could learn them!  Im super grateful for Dax who has allowed me to keep Ben as a part of our family, and for showing me you can Zing more than once.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Status" Quo

     According to my Facebook I'm a married woman. I am married to Ben Miller, the father of my children and my husband (of almost thirteen years according to the law).  I imagine that's a little strange to the family and friends of my new boyfriend. ( And maybe mine too ).

     I'm a widow. I didn't have a choice in the matter. It's just the way it is. So when it comes to my Facebook I haven't wanted to undo or change my connection to Ben. That IS my choice. I know there are many who believe that once their spouse dies they have fulfilled that marriage bond. I grew up with a different faith that believes marriage and families are forever. I don't know what my beliefs are anymore. What I do know is at this point in time, I don't want to undo that tie that I have to Ben on my Facebook.

     I realize that not everyone will understand it or approve. That's ok. I don't expect them to. What matters to me is that my wonderful, amazing, incredible boyfriend DOES understand.  He understands this terrible loss that our family has gone through.  He has seen our tears and even wiped mine.  He has offered love and support.  He has perspective.  He knows how I feel about him.  I now want to tell you how I feel about him.  I feel so lucky to have him in my life.  I didn't know if anything would ever feel normal or good again. Turns out things still aren't normal, as we have a combined total of seven kids, 3 dogs, 3 cats, a snake and a bearded dragon.  It's a regular zoo when we are all together. Yet somehow it just works.  It does feel good again.  I find myself smiling and laughing everyday.  I see my kids doing the same.  I have no doubt that's what Ben would want for us.

So my unofficial Facebook status is this, married widow of Ben Miller... Happily in a relationship with Dax Parra.  I know I know, It's complicated doesn't even begin to cover it!  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Live each day!

I have been very fortunate to have made two new amazing friends.  They are both cancer survivors and have given me a new perspective in my life.  Since Ben's death I have struggled with remaining positive in my life.  Considering all my family has been through I think I have done alright, but I am definitely not the glass half full optimist of my past.  I learned all two well that I am not in control of much.  I struggle with my belief system as to who/what is in control, but clearly I am not.  These two friends have a lease on life that is incredible.  Though their cancers and their stories are vastly different, the appreciation for each day is the same.  I count myself lucky to know them, to have them in my life, and for them to call me friend.

Monday, July 30, 2012

It's OK to NOT be OK!

     Many things have happened since my last post, Many personal things in my extended family that have been difficult and heart breaking.  I am so grateful for my family and I wish I could protect them from any sadness that may come their way!  Clearly I am not in control of that, or I would have prevented my own family from the tragedy that we have experienced. 
     I have explained it to those close to me that those experiences were the "perfect storm" for my emotions to come to the surface.  It made me realize that I am NOT ok, I am not all better, I am still heart broken at the loss of my best friend and husband.  I am NOT ok that my children will grow up without their father.  I am NOT ok, nor can I make sense of the heart break my sisters and their families have had to endure.  
     Many of us in the widowed community have felt the need to go through life pretending to be strong and well adjusted after our personal tragedies.  It ends up making many of us feel like people do not see the real "us".  I will personally say that these individuals ARE STRONG because they HAVE to be.  It doesn't mean that they aren't forever changed and heart broken on the inside. 
     Due to these new realizations, I had to take a step back from my relationship with Adam.  He was extremely kind and understanding and thankfully remains one of my dearest friends.  He was amazing to me and my children and I will always love him for that.  He just deserved so much more than I could give him at this point in my life. 
     Dont be sad for me.  I am ok NOT being ok.  I feel healthier than I have in a long time because I am being true to myself and my feelings.  If I have anything I can pass on to my friends and family it is just that... Be true to yourself, acknowledge your feelings, get outside help if you need it.  It is also OK to ask for help.  I am in personal counseling for the first time since Ben's death.  I can't help feel that if only the Army had a more positive view of mental health counseling,  and Ben hadn't been so afraid of ruining his career, he might have asked for that help himself and still be here today. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Someone Special

I have been waiting for the right time to write about my dating life. I guess I wanted to make sure it was something that would last. See, I actually tried to stop dating this man on three different occasions. I just didn’t feel ready to be romantic with anyone new. We actually agreed to just be friends because we had so much in common. It just soon became obvious to us both that there was something more.

His name is Adam. He lost his mother to suicide over ten years ago, so although he is not widowed, he does understand our loss. He spent a long time convincing me that although he wasn’t widowed, he could understand me and be supportive of the fact that I am still grieving. It has proved to be more difficult than he anticipated in some ways, yet he manages to be supportive and understanding in my grief process.

It has been strange in some ways. I have often felt like two different people. One who can laugh and be happy and feel love for someone again, and one who is so sad and confused about this amazing love that I lost.

One of my neighbors pointed out that I talk about Ben often around Adam (and otherwise). She went on to say that she could never date a widower. I cant imagine that it is easy. I do talk about Ben often and I am sure that I always will. He was my husband for almost thirteen years, my love for over fourteen. He is the father of my children. He is forever in my heart. Although it isn’t always easy, Adam does understand that and recognizes how important it is for the kids to feel comfortable talking about him.

The true test for me was over Christmas vacation when I had my wonderful in-laws, Vel and Lee come to visit. We had a nice dinner with them and some of Adams family. I think everyone was a little nervous about how that visit would go. Adam and my in-laws got to spend a little time together over the course of a few days. One of the first things Vel said to us was that she was glad that Adam was so different than Ben. I think it validated in her mind, that I too knew, that there was no one like Ben. She later told me that she thought Adam was perfect for our family. I told her that I have a tough time trusting my instincts after losing Ben the way I did. She told me to trust hers, that Adam is a “good one”.

I hadn’t realized how important it was for me that Vel and Lee liked Adam, that they approved of him. It meant so much to me because they raised Ben, they knew what I had in him, they knew exactly what I had lost because they lost him too. I knew without a doubt that they wanted the best for me and for their grandchildren.

I don’t know where this will lead. I don’t know what comes next. I do know I am grateful to have Adam in my life. For now, I am completely content taking one day at a time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let the Music do the talking

*I took lyrics from songs that mean something to me and put them together to make this blog post. Just bits and pieces put together at random in a way that expresses how I feel today.*

You took my hand, you showed me how, you promised me you’d be around.

I took your words and I believed in everything you said to me…..

I wish I could touch you again, I wish I could still call you friend… I’d give anything.

I’ll keep you locked in my head, until we meet again. I won’t forget you my friend, what happened. That last kiss, I’ll cherish, until we meet again. And time makes it harder, I wish I could still remember.

I miss the sound of your voice. I miss the rush of your skin, I miss the still of the silence as you breathe out and I breathe in.

I’m here without you baby, but you’re still on my lonely mind. I think about you baby and I dream about you all the time. I’m here without you baby, but you’re still with me in my dreams. When it’s all said and done, it gets hard but it won’t take away my love.

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend, somewhere alone in the bitterness. I would have stayed up with you all night had I known how to save a life.

It’s like one of those bad dreams when you can’t wake up. Looks like you’ve given up, you’ve had enough, but I want more…

I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing, just Praying to a God that I don’t believe in. What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you? I’m falling to pieces. They say bad things happen for a reason, but no wise words are gonna stop the bleeding.

Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor…. And I wonder if I ever cross your mind. For me it happens all the time. It’s a quarter after one, I’m all alone and I need you now, and I don’t know how I can do without, I just need you now.

When’s the day you start again, and when the hell does you’ll get over it begin? I’m looking in the mirror but I don’t fit my skin. Cause I still don’t know how to act, don’t know what to say. I still wear the scars like it was yesterday. But you’re long gone. But I still don’t know where to start, still finding my way, still talk about you like it was yesterday. But you’re long gone. I’m barely used to saying me instead of us. The elephant in the room keeps scaring off the guests. No I can’t keep thinking that you’re coming back, and it’s going to be hard.

I just want to be ok.

And you ask me what I want this year and I try to make this kind and clear, just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days.

I've been robbed!!

I’ve been robbed! Something so precious was taken from me and it is absolutely irreplaceable.

On our wedding day he sang to me “Forever’s as Far as I’ll go”. Yet he isn’t here with me now and that just isn’t ok!

We had a saying, “80 on a porch swing”. It was our way of saying we were in this for the long haul. We were supposed to get struck by lightning and go together. Neither of us wanted to be the one who was left alone.

Now I’m here and he isn’t. How is this fair? How is this ok?

I keep trying to move forward and in many ways I have. But I have come to realize there is a part of me that is forever his. There is a hole in my heart that only he can fill.