So it's been almost three months since I have written a post. Summer was a busy one. I did some more traveling, going to back to Iowa a week after RAGBRAI for two Slightly Stoopid concerts and to see them (and visit with family) in Florida a few weeks later. Work has been keeping me very busy (and a bit stressed out) as well. Due to this and just not having much to write about… well, it's been a long time between posts.
I started this blog in 2010 to promote my intent to ride RAGBRAI 2011 and raise money for Stand Up to Cancer. Once RAGBRAI ended I pretty much abandoned the site. Last September I started it back up to keep people updated on what was going on with Billy Jo's health. It was simply too stressful for me to give updates over and over and over again, by phone, by email, by text, etc. Having a blog to post the updates made the best sense to me.
Shortly after I began doing that, I opened up about my feelings on the blog, and everything changed. Suddenly there were tens of thousands of unique visits to the site every month. I was receiving emails from people around the world in similar situations, thanking me for helping them. I never thought of myself as the "writer" type, I never thought of myself as being in the position to help people, and was quite surprised at the response I received. Writing the blog ended up being helpful for me as well as others. Putting an end to bottling up my feelings and emotions has really helped speed up my healing process… I truly believe this.
Having said that… well... I have never been one that is comfortable "in the spotlight", so to speak. I prefer to just do my thing and go about life, not attracting attention to myself. That obviously took a hugely different direction beginning last September. In September I went from a fairly private life to a fairly public one. I found myself receiving a lot of emails, blog comments, and was even accepting Facebook friend requests from people I didn’t know and haven’t met, as long as they were friends with Billy Jo. Had I just kept the posts to strictly updates about Billy Jo, these things wouldn’t have happened and the blog would have been dormant again by Christmas. But by me posting my feelings, I put myself in the spotlight. I am not regretting the decision to do so, as I have helped others, and have helped MYSELF by doing it.
These posts I wrote on the blog were raw and organic- from the heart and not the head. Lately I feel like I have writer's block. I feel like I should be posting things, yet struggle to think of things to write about. I never started this blog to make money or run ads or anything. I started it to keep people updated on her condition and then to also share my thoughts and feelings of the situation. As a result, I didn't feel like I should, for lack of a better word, HAVE to post anything, especially if I didn’t have much to say. Additionally, it seemed that if I did such a thing- post for the sake of posting, I would keep myself in the spotlight I am not exactly comfortable in. Maybe that is a self-centered way to think. Maybe I have given myself this air of self-importance, and it doesn't really affect anyone if I do or do not post. I don't know the answer to this but I do feel this blog needs some sort of closure. I don’t feel right having my last post be that of the “I Stand For” pics from the end of RAGBRAI. It’s a great post which means a lot to me - I *did* ride for all those people - but doesn’t feel like a proper final post.
I just want to "blend back into the background”. That being said, there's been more happening over the past months that I want to briefly mention.
I have a girlfriend :). I wasn't looking for one, but like a lot in life, things happened, and for the first time in quite a long time, a thing happened in life that makes me very happy. We are getting along great, spending a lot of time together, etc. I am meeting/have met a lot of her family. Things are going very very well. I feel fortunate that my foray back into dating after almost twenty years has been a wonderful experience. She is a genuinely nice, honest, and sweet girl. Like me, she is not a “spotlight person”, so I won’t go into details (so no... there will be no 4,000 word biography or VH1 documentary film about her ;) )
She was also was worried about how she would be portrayed by people. I understand this - this can't be an easy position to be in. It's not like I'm divorced. I wasn't really prepared to say anything either so we kept things quiet, but then I began telling those closest to me about us. This of course still left a lot of people who don't know.
I didn't like the self-imposed "hiding", but we both felt it was necessary. However, it caused times where I felt like I was cheating, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. I talked about this at length with my bereavement therapist and she agreed that I shouldn't have felt that way.
We were getting along great and things got to the point where our relationship should be known. I was a little nervous at first at how the people I told would take the news. I considered the possibility of a person or two having an issue with this news, but I also considered that I lived most of my adult life not putting myself first. I was completely okay doing so, yet I also knew I wasn't going to continue doing so the remainder of my life. I am living my life for me now. As it turns out, everyone I have told so far is happy for me/us, and I have told quite a few people… my family, some friends, and some of Billy Jo's family.
The first thing Billy Jo said to me when I told her she was likely going into hospice if things didn't improve in that next 24 hours (yes, I was the one who had to tell her - and without any doctor there) was that she didn't want me to live the rest of my life alone, and that I was even young enough to spend twice as long with someone as I did with her. I don't think I ever posted about that on here. I told her to stop talking about these things, that it wasn’t over yet, but she wanted it to be perfectly clear to me that she didn't want me to be alone for the rest of my life after her death. It seemed at times that she was more concerned about me (finances, happiness, this...) than her own rapidly approaching mortality. She had told me many times over the years to leave her- “I will understand - you didn't sign up for this type of life,” she’d say. I always replied with a roll of the eyes and a "shut up" and as you know, I didn't leave her. I love her and I miss her. I still talk to her…. maybe not every day, but I still do. However, our relationship has changed, obviously, to a spiritual one. I don't really mean religious either, just spiritual. I have a feeling she is looking down on me and happy at how I have been doing, living my life.
To those of you who have followed this blog, reached out to me, and kept us in your thoughts and prayers, I cannot thank you enough. To those of you whom I have helped with my blog, to those who may find it at some point down the road (I am not removing the site), let this post be another that brings you some hope. A year ago, I really REALLY did not know if I would be okay after Billy Jo's death. My future was uncertain. Yet nearly 11 months after her death, I have discovered that as every day passes, life does indeed go on if you allow it to, and believe it or not, it can be a happy experience if you allow it to, as well.
Billy Jo made it very clear she wanted life to go on after she passed away. Not just for me, but for everyone's lives she touched. You have one life on this earth, and no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Go live it.