Catherine Graves’ Blog


Who Am I

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Who Am I


I am a mother, a daughter, a friend, a woman, a girl, a writer.  But I am no longer a wife.

Five years ago the rug was yanked out from underneath me. Much like the magic trick when the magician pulls the table cloth off of the table and all of the dishes somehow magically remain on top. Except in my case, most all the dishes, the glassware and even the silverware came crashing down to the ground. Some shattered in hundreds of pieces, unable to be reassembled and put back together.  Some simply cracked and worth a second look. And some of them are remarkably whole, but I am not quite sure where they should be placed back up on the table.

It’s a strange feeling, being complete but still feeling the missing pieces.  My marriage, my husband, my confidant are gone.  I have tried filling them in with different experiences, places, people, things…it doesn’t really work that well.

What I have discovered is that I have to accept the broken pieces, throw them away and introduce newer, better parts into my life.  Things will get taken away from us, so that we may be able to keep ourselves open to picking up the pieces that aren’t broken, fixing some of the pieces that are broken and throwing away what we can’t salvage.

I am still a mother (a great one, if I do say so myself), a daughter (a decent one), a friend (I do my best)…and all of those other things. Now it is time to create the rest of myself. What does that look like?  I want to help others who have experienced loss, disappointment and far too many broken pieces. I want to enjoy this last year with my daughter at home. I want to travel and experience all that is waiting for me. I have come to realize that although I have some broken parts (who doesn’t?) I am still whole.

We all travel as tourists through this crazy thing called life.  The more we look at it as an adventure, the healthier we become.  I have no regrets about the past decisions and choices and experiences that I have had. I have faith that there is a reason for all of it. And it is faith that will keep me on my path. The path that is unseen but is there for me to continue travelling upon.  The people I am going to meet that will help me change my life, as I help them change theirs for the better.  The prayers I put out into the world, not only for myself, but for everyone who is suffering one way or another.  I know suffering.  Just start picking up the pieces, a day at at time. Don’t forget the most important person in the equation YOU!

What helps?  Meditation helps ease anxiety, I’ve learned that and it’s amazing.  Sitting quietly and listening to beautiful music, bringing peace into my heart and finding some sacred space.  It used to sound so funny to me, but it times of true strife and loss, it works beautifully.    I have a long journey ahead of me.  We’ll see what happens along the way.   But with friends and faith, it just may turn out better than I thought.

I may try to pull the tablecloth next year, again, and see what happens.

Catherine Graves

Sharing Our Experiences

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I think that sharing our experience is one of the fastest routes to healing. I have been overwhelmed with all of the emails and letters I have received over the past month.  Each one takes me back to a moment that I myself lived through, and each one also makes me more grateful for being able to reach out to others. The following is just one example of someone else’s journey and what their feelings are about it. I hope that you find this helpful. I would love my facebook page and my blog to become a forum for others to share their voices.

Dear Catherine,

Thank you very much for writing this book!  I don’t even know how I came across it, but I am ever so grateful that I did. My ex husband was diagnosed in March of 2006 and was in remission for nearly 2 years. He then did a year of chemo. We were divorced in September of 2010 and it was shortly thereafter that the tumor began to grow again. He passed away on June 24th 2011. We were together every day for the last 3 weeks of his life and I have to hope that he knew that he was loved and cared for. I went through so many of the same emotions you did. Unfortunately the abusive behavior reached a pinnacle that I could not sustain. I will never know how much of that behavior was Eddie or the tumor. I think the guilt will always remain, but I may never have all the answers.(Oligodendroglioma, temporal lobe and insular cotex.) You validated so much for me. My oldest was 12 as well and my youngest was 9 when Eddie passed. They are my little troopers. I still have to deal with a house in foreclosure but it’s a little easier now that it  has been nearly 7 months. Thank you for all your gems of wisdom. (They are highlighted!) I made mistakes of my own…with men. I think I was seeking solace and at times I just want to be held. I can not tell you what it was like to read your words, your emotions and finally not feel ALONE. Thank you for having the grit to put yourself back together and the courage to put your words, your experience and hard won lessons in print!

May all the blessings in this world be yours and your children’s.

Sincerely,

Roe Lewis

Life After Death

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Life After Death

It has been almost four years since John’s death, and I am still trying to reconstruct my life. Putting all of the pieces back together doesn’t seem to be working. That’s probably because the pieces aren’t the same as they were four years ago. It seems that as soon as I think that I have them all in together and in place, one of those pieces, or players in this game of life, changes, or simply doesn’t fit any longer.

Not that this is a bad thing. Just a confusing one. My world seems to be shifting around under me just as I think I have it all together. Obviously (or at least, obviously to me), my world is not as I had imagined it would be five years ago. In some ways, I am certain it is better than I had thought it would be. In others, it seems unimaginably different. Five years ago, I had my future all mapped out. Literally. I actually had a list of things that I had compiled of all of the things that I wanted us to accomplish, all of the places I wanted us to travel, and all of the things that I wanted for our family to experience.

Now, I try to make a list, and I come up empty handed. Not because I don’t want to experience all that my life has to offer. Maybe it is because there are no limits. There is a world of possibility out there…and that just seems a bit overwhelming at the moment. I don’t even want to attempt to guess what life has in store for me next. I am trying to develop some patience so that I can simply experience it!

Anyone that knows me well, knows that patience is not one of my virtues. I am a planner. A list maker. A bit “anal retentive” (is there another word for that characteristic? If so…please advise). Sitting around waiting for life to happen doesn’t suit me well. So here I am. Trying to be patient while my natural instinct is to get it all figured out. I suppose I don’t even have that option now. I am trying to just sit back and enjoy the ride…

What Do You Do With the Pain?

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Last weekend was Memorial Day. I was feeling incredibly out of sorts and couldn’t shake the feeling all weekend long. I actually haven’t felt quite the same since then, but am beginning to emerge from the fog that I had been swimming in all week.
Suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps my subconscious had recalled something that my conscious had not. Four years ago on that same weekend, I had taken John up to Flagstaff for a quick family getaway. The doctors thought it was a great idea. So did we, until John had a stroke and was having MAJOR problems dealing with the change in pressure. That weekend had marked the beginning of the end for John. And as I now recall, I was the most helpless I have ever felt in my life.
I am now a believer that our cells must have their own memory. I was not aware of nor did I associate my feelings with the events from four years ago. Again, the beauty of it is, that rather than stay stuck in that feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, I recognized where it was coming from, felt it, and decided, consciously, that that isn’t the place I want to stay in. As soon as I was aware of where it was coming from, I was able to make a positive choice to step out of it.
We will all experience these periods from time to time, whether it be from the loss of a relationship, a job, or a friend. It doesn’t matter so much where the pain is coming from or what caused the pain. It is clearly what we choose to do with these experiences that matters.

Memories….

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Memories can be paralyzingly painful. But they can also be remarkably energizing and inspiring. I have begun to recognize what particular memories are going to send me into a deep funk, and before writing this book and speaking about it, I would do an immediate u-turn to avoid those feelings. I am not saying that I wanted to completely forget the hard times, but I knew that what I had gone through was not typical of what my life had been nor would become.

Now, I recall the toughest of times through speaking about them with others, and look at what it took to get me through them. I do this for myself, and so that I can offer help to those who seem to be on the hard edge of being devoured by a similar experience. There is a brutal significant value in surviving grueling times, but the time to reflect for me—I think for anyone—is when it is small in the rear view mirror, not when it is still dominating the landscape.

We All Fall Down

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We All Fall Down

John’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments were over in six weeks as promised. Three weeks later he started falling apart. Falling down. A lot. At first he could help me get him back if not his feet, and least into a chair. But even that didn’t last long, and then it was just me struggling to lift my big, forever strong and handsome husband up from the floor.John had seizures, many of them, and all he could do was sleep them off the way some ridiculous college binger would sleep off a big weekend. I watched him sleep, sometimes dozing off myself, then waking with a start, afraid that John wouldn’t awaken at all.I took John back to Barrows ahead of schedule and insisted he have a scan done of his brain. The news the scan brought was not good. I hadn’t expected it to be, of course, but I couldn’t always trust my intuition anymore. (Other than from the kids, I wasn’t expecting to see good coming from anything). There were three new spots on John’s brain. In strictly physical terms, small. In medical, and psychological, terms, enormous. The glioma was recurring with remarkable speed. The cerebellum, where your physical coordination comes from, was the site of one of the new spots. That explained a lot. His motor skills were shot. The falling wasn’t just weakness from the weeks of chemo and radiation. This was not something he would get over with time and rest.The implantation of a Gliadel wafer was brought up now. Of course it would mean going into what should be no man’s land—John’s brain—once again. It was, in the most generous terms, a stopgap measure, one that might add some time to John’s physical life, but would not in any way ensure any quality of life. And the side effects, as mentioned before, seemed almost more dreadful than the treatment.We chose home instead.

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©2010 Catherine Graves

How Can a Bookstore Make Your Heart Ache?

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How Can a Bookstore Make Your Heart Ache?

I’d had a trip to a bookstore planned, and John suddenly decided he wanted to accompany me. In the old days I would have been thrilled. A little trip out could have wound up in a surprise intimate dinner, a hike up a little secluded ridge, almost anything. But this request made my chest feel tight. To heck with it. I shook it off. It was a good sign that John wanted to get away from the house for a bit. Maybe we were edging a little closer to normal normal.We made it to the store incident free. All right, I thought. This is good. This is sweet. John’s movements weren’t exactly fluid (he’d had some trouble getting into the car), but he was good enough for a bookstore. I stayed alongside him, though, not freewheeling through the place as I once would have. John suddenly stopped in front of one particular section sign. He looked at it for a moment or two, then back to me.“What is fiction?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “What does that mean?”I felt the question register in my eyes, in the muscles of my face. “Fiction is stories, hon. Not actual stories, but made up.”He held a book of fiction (to this day I think I refuse to remember the author or title) in his hand and looked at it like it was some arcane object. Eventually, I took it from him and placed it back on the shelf. I didn’t realize he was looking at my face the entire time.He said, “I’m sorry you’re sad.”And, of course, I was. I could tell by the expression on his face that he could pair that emotion with the look on my face, but didn’t really know what it meant, and couldn’t feel that sensation himself.I’m never surprised that I learn a thing or two in a bookstore. But this time it was learned not by words read in a book, but by two faces being read by two now very different people.

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©2010 Catherine Graves