Lights, Camera, No Action


In my short time on Planet Grief, I’ve discovered that it’s not only the best laid plans of mice and men that go awry; a widow’s plans are subject to change, or at least, they do for this particular widow.

This is what I am wearing right now as I hammer my keyboard: red and grey tartan pyjama bottoms; grey t-shirt; grey zipped hoodie; lip balm, and a vitamin A serum which promises to make my skin glow. (Still waiting…)

This is what I intended to wear this evening: Black knife-pleat v-necked vintage dress; wide black suede belt with diamante round buckle; high strappy black patent-leather sandals; selection of suitably sparkly jewellery and subtle yet feature enhancing make-up.

The former outfit would never feature in a Vogue double-spread as to what the woman about Highgate should wear, but it’s appropriate for typing my blog at ten o’clock at night.

The thing is, I wasn’t supposed to be at my desk tonight. I was supposed to be sipping cocktails at The Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, before attending a reception in the ballroom along with 1300 representatives of the industry JS and I worked in. I was supposed to eat dinner; laugh at comedian Greg Davies performing his stand-up routine; clap enthusiastically at the winner of the Best use of a cartoon character on a lunchbox award; and then, at the end of the evening, listen to a touching speech about my late husband against a photo backdrop. To applause, I intended to glide up onto the stage in my spiked trotters, graciously accept the award on behalf of JS from amazingly tall Greg; give a short yet witty speech (opening line: There must be easier ways to meet one of your comedy heroes than your husband dying…) before having my photo taken with Big Greg. I imagined posting said photo on my blog alongside a breathless commentary about how difficult the evening had been, but how glad I was that I did it, yadda yadda yadda.

The dogsitter was booked, as was the hair appointment and the Addison Lee cab. My pedicure (Jessica’s ‘Some Like It Hot’ red) was immaculate, the outfit on the hanger ready to go, and my speech polished to perfection courtesy of walking over the Heath for the last few days telling The Hound, “My husband was a quietly understated man, nevertheless, I know that he would have been thrilled…”

There was even a cunning plan in place should I faint on stage with the horror of it all. My friend, Big Bird, has the serious hots for Mr D and wanted to meet him, but not being the recipient of a prize for Hello Kitty three-pack knickers, or the widow of an industry grande fromage, it was arranged that as I crumpled to the floor in a heap of black pleats and bling, she would race on to the stage on the pretext of helping me, whilst actually stepping over me to push her phone number into Greg’s undoubtedly large mitt.

On The Hound’s life, I really and truly intended to go.

And then I woke up this morning and thought: I don’t want to go.

Not, I can’t face it or I can’t do it – but, I don’t want to go.

I texted Big Bird who suggested that I had a weep, walk the dog, (my morning routine) and see how I felt. It was good advice, because Big Bird knows that even if I am nervous before giving a major speech or presentation, once I’m made-up and dressed-up and stand up with a microphone, on a good day I can make Joan Rivers look shy and boring.

So I had a sob and walked the dog and spoke to a couple of people, and still I didn’t want to go.

Sitting quietly on a bench on the Heath overlooking a pond, I realised it wasn’t accepting the award or speaking in front of well over a thousand people that worried me; most of them would be so plastered by the time JS’s award came around, they wouldn’t notice if SpongeBob SquarePants was given a lifetime achievement gong. I dreaded going out on my own with no one to tell me that I’d scrubbed up well; it saddened me that there would be no looks across a crowded room which signalled with just a small eye movement: Let’s get the hell out of here and go home, and the thought of slumping into a cab, alone, at the end of the evening was dire. But I’m going to have to get used to those things if I’m to live any sort of reasonable life, and none of those things were the real reason I didn’t want to go.

What I couldn’t bear, was the thought of being amongst so many people who would be (understandably) hell bent on having a good time in their black ties and ball gowns, people who still live the sort of professional life I once relished. We used to have a bustling three-story office with a showroom and lots of staff, but now there is just me stuffed into a tiny one-woman room, winding-down the company, organising boxes to go in to storage, sifting through decades of material collected over the working lifetime of my husband: ET clocks; Miami Vice cars; Thundercats action figurenes; Snoopy toys; Rugrats activity sets; Nintendo comics; Garfield socks. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels, and going to the dinner tonight felt as if I was peeping back into a life I once had, and just as with photos, I’m not yet at the stage of remembering those times with a smile, only searing pain.

So this afternoon, I rang a friend in the business and asked her to put the contingency plan in place: a friend of JS’s would accept the award on his behalf. I cancelled the dogsitter and the hairdresser and the cab, and told Big Bird that she’d have to chat up Greg without me. She said she’d gone off him anyway, and that if they were meant to be together, they’d meet again. The two of us are seeing him on tour in November, so perhaps she will.

Tonight, instead of cocktails and speeches, I fired up the little Fiat and spent the evening eating pizza with friends who loved JS too. It wasn’t the evening I planned, but I felt it was the evening I wanted, and it felt right. But there is no denying that typing my blog in my PJ’s wasn’t what I intended.

This was supposed to be how the day ended:

Beautifully dressed and sparkling under the lights of the Grand Ballroom, JS’s elegant widow fights back emotion as she brandishes his award in the air and says:  

John, wherever you are my darling, this is for you.
It’s well deserved.
Thank you.


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32 Comments

Angela Smith
Reply September 14, 2011

Although I don't live in the same type of world as you, I can relate to everything you wrote, and the points you made. Well done for sticking to what was right for you, I would think John would be proud of you. I just felt I wanted to acknowledge this wonderful piece.

Angela

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Angela S: Thank you so much. My life is very quiet now: dog walking, dog walking and more dog walking. I hope that all this plodding around with The Hound is helping me heal.

    Really appreciate you taking the time to comment. xxx

megan
Reply September 14, 2011

I think that was the most useful bit of advice I received in my Early Days: do whatever feels right at the time, even if it means changing every single plan at the last minute. Do what you need.

xo

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Megan: The thing I fear is that gradually my world will shrink. I love people and people watching and interacting with life. Just too tired (mentally) most of the time to do it. xx

      megan
      Reply September 15, 2011

      I totally get that. I can't handle most of the Outside World, even now. But it's such a tough thing, you know? I go out, and I feel like people see me, and treat me, very very gently, the poor widow lady, how is she doing on this outing? That, or I'm a conversation piece, with people I don't know well wanting to know what happened. Nothing can be just Normal. People watching I can usually do - long as no one wants to engage in small talk with me, I'm good.

        megan
        Reply September 15, 2011

        and - dog walking, dog walking, dog walking.

      emily
      Reply September 15, 2011

      This was posted (and been reposted quite a few times) on the mw site. it is a really good way of looking at grief and being a bit further down the road i find it is definitely true...honestly with time your world will grow again x

      Ball in a jar

      One day I saw a notice for a talk on helping children through bereavement by Barbara Monroe, the Chief Executive of St Christopher's Hospice in London. When I arrived, what I saw resembled a physics lesson. On the table before her was a very large glass jar. Beside were three balls: one large, one medium-sized, one small. Without a word, she began to stuff the large ball into the jar. With a great deal of effort, she wedged it in.
      'There!' she said. 'That's how grieving feels at first. If grief is the ball and the jar is your world, you can see how the grief fills everything. There is no air to breathe, no space to move around. Every thought, every action reminds you of your loss.' Then she pulled the large ball out of the jar and put in the medium-sized ball. She held it up again, tipping it so the ball rolled around a bit. 'Maybe you think that's how it will feel after a time - say, after the first year. Grieving will no longer fill every bit of space in your life.' Then she rolled the ball out and plopped in the small ball.
      'Now, say, by the second or third year, that's how grieving is supposed to feel. Like the ball, it has shrunk. So now you can think of grief as taking up a very small part of your world - it could almost be ignored if you wish to ignore it.'
      For a moment, considering my own crammed jar, I thought of leaving. 'That's what everyone thinks grieving is like,' the voice continued. 'And it's all rubbish.'
      I settled back into my seat. Two other glass jars were produced from under the table: one larger, one very large.
      'Now,' she said,imperiously. 'Regard.' Silently, she took the largest ball and squeezed it slowly into the least of the three jars. It would barely fit.
      Then she pulled the ball out and placed it in the next-larger jar. There was room for it to roll around. Finally, she took it out and dropped it into the largest glass jar. 'There,' she said, in triumph. 'That's what grieving is really like. If your grieving is the ball, like the ball here it doesn't get any bigger or any smaller. It is always the same. But the jar is bigger. If your world is this glass jar, your task is to make your world bigger.'
      'You see,' she continued, 'no-one wants their grief to shrink. It is all they have left of the person who died. But if your world gets larger, then you can keep your grief as it is, but work around it.'
      Then she turned to us. 'Older people coping with grief often try to keep their world the same. It is a mistake. If I have one thing to say to all of you it is this: make your world larger. Then there will be room in it for your grieving, but your grieving will not take up all the room. This way you can find space to make a new life for yourselves.'

        megan
        Reply September 16, 2011

        thank you. Today has SUCKED, and this helped.

        xo

Holly
Reply September 14, 2011

Helen, good for you. We need to sometimes put ourselves and our needs first. JS would be very proud of you xxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Holly: He hated my tartan PJs though...

lynsey
Reply September 14, 2011

Oh Helen! But yep! You did the right thing tonight.
He's with you and you're beautiful in either those PJ's or the ball gown and bling!
With love xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Lynsey: Perhaps I could combine the two to form a strange bedroom and bling hybrid!

Al
Reply September 14, 2011

Hey Hell Bells, smiling through the tears at you in tartan pj's, very fetching, did you have them on when you went for your pizza??

I can relate to this post, we had got things arrranged to do this year but I just didn't want to do them so I haven't, one day we will climb out from under our respective electric blankets and take the world on, until then we do what we want to do and not be pressurised to do something that's not comfortable.
Much love to you my friend xxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Al! Of course not! I may have slipped down the sartorial ladder recently, but the thought of being caught in a prang in North London in my nightwear is enough to have me if not dressing up, at least wearing outdoor-appropriate clothing. x

      Al
      Reply September 14, 2011

      I do hope you realise I was joking?! xx

Jane
Reply September 14, 2011

Doing what's right for you.
A Widows way- the only way.
Xxxxxx

    megan
    Reply September 15, 2011

    I just may need to use that one, jane: a widow's way - the only way. Nice.

Gaynor
Reply September 14, 2011

My husband and son both played in a brass band. One month after John died I was asked to attend a concert where my son (aged 14) was to be given the Bandsman of the Year award. For my son's sake, I dragged myself along, sat alone in the middle of a row about 6 rows from the front. Then, to my horror, the conductor began a tribute to John before presenting my son with his award. Totally unprepared, totally overwhelmed I began to sob uncontrollably with the eyes of both the audience and the band upon me. I don't even remember what happened next but somehow I made it through the end of the concert and scuttled off home to the safety of my familiar four walls. PG I admire you xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Oh Gaynor, that must have been terrible for you. One of the other reasons I was uneasy about going was that I didn't want to be wheeled out as the woman whose husband drowned. I too would have been totally overwhelmed in your circumstances. Love, xxx

Angela
Reply September 14, 2011

I completely understand why you didn't go. I don't think there is a widow on this planet that wouldn't understand those feelings.

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Angela - if there is one, let her stand up now....

    Nope, you're right.

Holly
Reply September 14, 2011

Och, jock me lad ... ok, I'll shut up now :):) You should get Boris a matching tartan collar. Funnily enough Len hated my tartan pj's too - or maybe it was just an excuse to get me naked ??? Hahaha ... maybe JS had similar ulterior motives! Much love xxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 14, 2011

    Holly: I used to point to the M&S Christmas ad campaigns where Lisa Snowdon was frolicking on a bed in tartan PJs and say: Lisa wears them and looks good. He'd retort that he didn't even like them on her.

    Wonder if she wore them whilst she was dating George Clooney? Maybe that's what went wrong...

Colin
Reply September 14, 2011

I feel for you, as usual beautifully written. Big hug xx

Sue G
Reply September 14, 2011

Beautifully written once again PG.
I'm sure there will be other opportunities in the future when maybe you won't be quite so raw, and will be more up to putting those glad rags on once again.
It is still early days for you sweetheart, and right now pj's (tartan or otherwise) are the way to go.
Tomorrow is my 51st birthday, the kids have spoilt me, and my best friends have been really kind, but it's just going to be a takeaway for me and the kids in the evening, with a madeira cake and a bottle or two of Lambrini (because I drink it like lemonade lol)
There will hopefully be days again, for dressing up and making an effort, but it isn't now, so Iwill join you sitting here in my long comfy nightshirt.

Big hugs
XXX

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 15, 2011

    I've sent you special PG wishes Sue...

Linz
Reply September 14, 2011

No self respecting woman should be without tartan PJs!

I thought I would try and be more positive than I am usually... It was my sister's wedding on Saturday, and I managed to put my bridesmaid "glad-rags" on (well I had to stick the strapless dress to me with double sided boob tape - wonderful stuff!) and have a good time. She has married a fantastic man, and although I cried in church at the "till death us do part" bit no one really noticed, and I felt that James was watching and smiling at us. A sad and happy day.

Glad to be back in the tartan pjs now though! Hugs to everyone. Xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 15, 2011

    Linz - and from the photos you looked absolutely beautiful. The dresses were such a glorious colour.

    You looked as if you were having a good time, however much your heart ached. You obviously delighted in your sister being happy and finding a wonderful man; we know how that feels, don't we? Why wouldn't we want it for others that we love.

    But hard on you.

    In a tartan nightshirt this morning! xxx

Paula
Reply September 15, 2011

Dear PG
You did the right thing xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 15, 2011

    Paula - it felt right. I was scared I would wake up in the morning and feel I had let myself and JS down, but I didn't. Thanks. xx

liz
Reply September 15, 2011

Oh H, my heart cries for you. Big hugs.
I'm glad you did what you felt was right.
On Wed I'm supposed to be at a do at the House of Lords, and 'before' I would have been excitedly planning my (new) outfit, trying it on for IMW to tell me how great I looked and to take care in the big city. On the night I would get lovely texts and at the end of the eve I would phone him up and relay all the events.
'now' I'm not sure I can even be bothered to go!

    Planet Grief
    Reply September 15, 2011

    Liz - Next Wednesday? I'll be thinking of you a few miles down the road. Your comments about trying the outfit on and the texts and the phone call on the way home is exactly what happened with us. At the moment there is no motivation, no excitement and no looking forward to anything social. But it has to change for us, doesn't it? Because I know that my spirit simply can't remain this crushed and this heavy forever. It's just not me and I so want to be the woman my husband fell in love with.

    Let us know how the H of L goes, if you go. xxx