The longest shortest year

You can’t explain the first year to someone who hasn’t experienced the death of a parent. There are no words or explanations that can give life to the grief, the pain, and the loss that you feel as you navigate your new life.  Everything I’ve ever done that involved my Mom will literally never happen again. Not a birthday, not a Saturday afternoon, not a walk, not Christmas or Thanksgiving, and in that first year, you experience all of those firsts.  The first year of complete void and nothingness in the place where your Mother used to be.

“I just don’t know how you do it.” I have muttered to friends and people I love who lost their Mother, truly believing that I did not know how it could ever be done.  Also, truly believing, that my time to walk that path had to be many years from that particular moment.

How does life go on when the very star, the sun that centered your universe shoots beyond your line of sight and into another galaxy?  I don’t like to say she flickered out because I know she’s shining somewhere, brighter than ever.

How does life go on in the after of complete loss?

It just does.

What was I going to do?  Quit my job and stay in bed all day?  I mean, ideally, absolutely… that’s exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted to fold into myself and sink into my memories and never come out, never come up for air, and never figure out how to do life without my Mom.  Well, being out of paid time off cured that want pretty quickly and I went back to work.  I was a complete zombie, but looking back, I think it helped.  I know it helped.

You go back to work, you pick up where you left off with TV shows you enjoyed, you visit friends, you go out-of-town… you. just. do.

You don’t “move on”, it doesn’t get better, time does not heal, none of those platitudes are even remotely true.  You just keep moving forward each day and hope you feel a little more able than the previous day.  Grief changes.  It permeates your being and becomes a fixture in your everyday, it becomes as much apart of you as the skin that stretches over your bones and it seeps into your molecular makeup.  You carry grief like a backpack filled with hardback books, all of those books written for and by your Mother.

At first, grief takes the shape of unbelievable sadness.  That sadness extends beyond any sadness you will ever feel.  Then, emptiness.  Emptiness as you wake up, slowly, and realize this world continues to exist without your Mom.  There will, quite literally, always be the before and after.  There is who you are when your Mom was here and there is who you are after your Mom is gone and those people are very different.

I was not okay for many, many months.  Mom went into the hospital on 10/20/2017 (one year ago today) and passed away on 10/24.  She was buried 10/28.  I don’t remember much of the last 2.5 months of 2017.  On New Years Eve I cried because I didn’t want to start a new year without her and I begged Chad to stay home from any events.  I couldn’t imagine facing an entire calendar year without her, though staying home wouldn’t stop that year from coming.  Nothing, not even the death of your most beloved, stops time.

Winter turned into spring and spring flirted with summer and if you’ve never broken down and torn apart the home your Mother lived in, I do not recommend it.  It was the impossible task.  Her sweet little items, her clothes, her cat, the list was endless and it all needed homes and those homes could no longer be in that house.  That house is still an open wound to me.  I dream about it often and she is usually there with me.  Even if you’re an adult and you have your own home, wherever your Mom is, that is also home.  When that home is gone to you, when every home from your childhood is no longer part of your life, you realize the only ties you have to those memories are the memories themselves.  That first time when you realize you can never, ever go home to your Mother again feels like having a heart attack.

It’s been the longest shortest year of my life.  It’s been years ago and it’s been as recent as yesterday.  I used to absolutely love the month of October.  Way before the culture of Pinterest and scarves and pumpkin spice, October was my birth month and I was obsessed with it.  I loved fall, I love the leaves, the colors, everything.  This month, I’ve tried so hard to enjoy those things that I love because Mom loved them, too.  It makes sense that she died on the day the foliage peaked.  I’ve tried so hard to find her in the cooling temperatures, and in the reds and golds that scatter the hillsides.  I know she’s with me, but boy do I miss her physical presence.

Often, I replay the Friday to Tuesday turn in the ICU at King’s Daughters through my mind, trying to remember every single detail.  There were moments of laughter and terrifying moments of fear.  There was not one single part of me that thought I would never her bring her home when I drove here there on this date one year ago.  She was in a great deal of discomfort.  We listened to the Johnson Central/Ashland game on the radio and I tried to distract her and give her Dylan’s stats for the game and for the entire season.  It worked out perfectly that Central played Ashland at Ashland since that’s where KDMC is located.  Tommy and I got her to the ER, Andi soon joined, and we waited.

We waited what felt like an eternity.

Around 5:00 am, she was finally given a room in ICU.  Stage 4 cancer with pneumonia certainly warranted intensive care.  The nurse asked Mom a million questions, and finally, asked her if she had a living will on file with the hospital which is a standard question.  She burst into tears and said, “I’m just so tired” and I said, “I know, Mommy, we’re almost done with the questions and then you can rest”.  I will never forget the look on her face and how she wilted, and even more so, how apparent it was that she was ready to rest.  She was so ready to rest.

Some of the memories I have from those four days haunt me.  The memory of her sweet face looking at each and every one of us as if she was memorizing our faces gets me every single time.  She wanted to go home, but at the same time, she didn’t want to leave any of us.  I remember feeding her her last good meal, baked potato and salad from Wendy’s.  Tommy, Melissa, myself, and Chad surrounded her bed and she commented how handsome Chad is with a beard and was in the best spirits.  This was Saturday night. With Sunday came saturated lungs that only worked at 37% anyway, ever complicated masks to help oxygen flow, and ultimately the bipap mask that sealed the deal.  It was horrifying.  That mask was miserable and I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask her to wear it for one more second to accommodate an arbitrary date.

She was everyone’s everything and that is not an exaggeration.  She wasn’t the same Mother to me as she was to Tommy and Andi — she was what we all three needed.  She wasn’t the same sister to Sharon and Pam — she was what each of them needed.  She was everything.

The fruition of my Mother’s faith came to pass on my 31st birthday.  That’s a beautiful and absolutely truthful way to put what happened that day, but it doesn’t begin to encompass the feelings I have since navigated.  I have been very angry.  Not about my birthday, but losing her in general.  I get very mad at the choosing of my most precious, wonderful person and not someone else who I feel deserved death more.  But, that isn’t even close to how it works.  She was ready.  That 110 pound shell was done.  Even still, coming to terms with the how and why is extremely difficult.  But, I think I have found that peace or I am at least actively working toward it.

As I sit 4 days out from that anniversary, the marking of the first year and my 32nd birthday, I chose to write and post this before the exact date.  My Mom would not want me to dwell on the sadness on that day.  If she could have changed it, I know that she would have chosen to pass on another day, but that isn’t something you ever get to choose.  And honestly, that’s okay.  It’s okay.  It was a special day to her before and it is the most special date to her now.

There will never be a day that I don’t miss her.  Not one.  But, I know that she isn’t here in this unexplainable void and sadness.  She is in the sun, she is in the leaves, she dwells in goodness and light, in the voices and faces of my siblings, her sisters, and my niece and nephew.  I find her in the mirror, sometimes.  I find her in my own voice pretty often.  I find her, always.

I will find her always.

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974 words on sexual assault

When I was 12 years old, a friend of mine (who happened to be male & also 12 years old) came over on Spring Break to hang with me for the day.  My Mom was home, our house was very small and we were only left alone long enough for Mom to use the bathroom or for us to play outside (she could see us).  He still found time to show me his penis twice.  One of those times, he was forcefully trying to kiss me and shove my hand down his pants, but I managed to push him away from me.  I was attracted to him and I thought that’s just what boys did when they liked you, no matter how horrible and uncomfortable it made me feel.  I don’t think I ever told anyone before this moment and he probably doesn’t even remember it. This was the first physical/sexual situation I can remember ever having in my entire life.  I have had interactions with this person as a young adult and at that time, I still considered our interaction ‘just what boys did during puberty’.  Now it just makes me sad.

One week before I turned 19, I spent the night with a girl friend and guys I had never met came to her house.  There was no alcohol.  At some point, I found myself alone with one of them.  My guess is he was 21 or so, I really don’t know.  He kissed me and I let it happen because I was a (relatively) normal 18 year old.  No big deal.  Previously, I was in a 2 year relationship so I thought I was pretty tough and could handle myself.  However, I hadn’t considered that those 2 years were spent with someone who respected me and my autonomy.  Being incredibly naive for 18, I was surprised when he started unbuttoning my pants and trying to shove his hands in my underwear.  I was absolutely paralyzed.  Having never had sex, losing my virginity to this guy was not anything I was interested in, but he was considerably bigger and stronger than me and his intentions were crystal clear.  I adamantly said “no” when he tried to escalate the situation, but he persisted.  I was scared in the moment and I did what I felt like I had to do to get out of the situation without having sex.  I vividly remember thinking, “I just have to get out of here, I don’t have a choice now”.  “No” wasn’t good enough.  “No” didn’t work.  Later, I thought about that incident a lot and I worried that I lead him on by kissing him.  I fully blamed myself.

These instances (and the two that have happened since I got married, yes, it happens to married women, too) are certainly improper behavior.  The first, I was a child and he was a child, and now I truly can’t count the number of unsanctioned male genitals that I’ve seen both in real life and in pictures (definitely not ok, guys, stop showing your dicks.. no one wants to see them).  The second, I never realized the gravity of that situation until I was older and the light bulb came on — I realized I had never told anyone about it, and then when I did tell someone, they looked at me with horror and apologized.  Only then did I think, “Oh wow, that wasn’t my fault at all. I was scared and I was only 18” and let it settle that I had certainly experienced something hurtful.

Nervously, I share this to support all of the women (and men) who have stories far worse than mine.  The women & men who wake up every day as victims of sexual abuse from an older friend/adult/family member, the women who wake up with flash backs of hands roaming and groping, and everything in between.  The idea that someone would make up such horrors just to ‘ruin’ someone else’s life is so incredibly glib that I wonder if folks even listen to themselves when they say such things (or absently click share on a meme).  It is deep, internalized misogyny to believe women at large are looming in the distance to destroy a man’s reputation.  That’s just insanity.  Any amount of research will reveal less than 10% of sexual violence accusations come to be complete fabrications.  Dismissing allegations as such tells the 90% of us that you don’t give a rip about what we’ve experienced, and maybe you don’t.  I hope you never experience it.

The fact that a boy, at 12 years old, showed me his erect penis without my encouragement or consent is something that should resonate.  That instance is the personification of the narrative ‘boys will be boys’ and we cannot allow such horse crap to persist.  People can change, I believe that.  I don’t have a clue how this human being is as an adult man with a wife and child, I can only hope that he is teaching his children to be better. I assume the second guy is, too. I hope. I have no way of knowing either.  But, I don’t really want either of them influencing the laws of this country for the next 30 years.  Sue me.

Finally, if you say things like, “Why did it take her so long to tell anyone?” then you have either never experienced sexual violence or misconduct, or you have and you’ve pushed it down so far that you psychologically reject the idea of people being honest about their experiences.  Just a single, solitary shred of empathy for another human being should cause one to think about how the person who was assaulted may feel instead of an arbitrary timeline to report sexual violence.

We can totally do better than this, y’all.  If you’re reading this and you’ve been harmed by sexual violence — I believe you and I am with you.

 

Well, it’s September and I don’t have a drastic ‘before & after’ photo regarding my fitness journey.

Typical.

Anyone who has ever met me knows that I have a reaaaaaaaaaally hard time with consistency, unless consistency means being inconsistent then I am INCREDIBLY consistent.  I mean, that counts for something, right?

When Chad and I moved into our house 3 years ago, we got a treadmill set up a home gym.  I hate going to a gym.  I flat out wont do it.  The only gym that I will show my face in is my Aunt’s amazing women’s only facility in Paintsville (Spirit Strong Fitness Studio, look it up) — and it really is amazing.  Anything else?  I’m not doing it, and if you hate something that makes the task miserable, and if you’re miserable you aren’t enjoying taking care of yourself (fitness is good, y’all), and if you aren’t enjoying it you’re eating 24 tacos because a taco 12 pack is only $20.  Don’t ask me how I know.

So, anywho, I started doing workouts at home and membership to streaming fitness service and I love it.  But, more on that at a later time.

Back to not having a super drastic before and after for this year — it’s fine.  I’ve figured out that finding a six pack behind the pizza that I truly enjoy (I loooove pizza, do you love pizza? Are you in a relationship with pizza?) wasn’t what this year was about at all.  See, I am really hard on myself.  I was.  Past tense.  I would stand in the mirror and look at my stomach and repeat how disgusting I was and believe it.  I believed it deeply and sometimes I still do if I let myself go to that ugly place.  Over a freaking stomach, you know?  Who in the world cares?  It’s skin, why would I believe it’s so inherently bad to have looser skin there?  Not just that, but I would beat myself up over ‘bad’ choices and shift between counting every gram of everything that went in my mouth to eating without abandon.  There was rarely a happy medium with me because.. you know… I’m me.

The drastic before and after that FINALLY happened to me can’t really be captured in a photograph.  Although, you can see a huge difference in my legs (hellloooooo quad and calf city!), the before and after that’s so amazing has been internal.  I don’t hate myself when I look in a mirror, I don’t even mind my body — it’s totally fine.  It’s better than fine.  It’s strong and it’s soft, I can run and squat and keep up with anyone, but I also enjoy my friends and family because food is typically the centerpiece of any time you spend quality time with people.

I’m not going to stop enjoying food.  I really, really, really do love salads and veggies, but I don’t want to eat that every single meal. So, dine in restaurants are a special time where I get yummy things that I enjoy without going overboard. It sounds incredibly simple, but what if you have 3 dinner engagements in one week?  Well, obviously, don’t get loaded fries and hot wings at all 3 (or do, honey, I am not your boss).  Instead, splurge 1 meal, and then the other 2 can still be incredibly yummy if you play your cards right.

I am all about playing my cards right with food, let me tell ya.

I’ve been wondering how many of y’all reading might be interested in a little group, no strings, no dues, nothing but me just putting some info out and answering questions.  I’m not a registered anything, but I am a registered foodie, work out enthusiast, and pizza topping aficionado and I reckon some of y’all can relate to that, and thus, relate to me. We might even have some fun! I think we will totally have fun.

If you’re interested and scared and worried and apprehensive that someone might judge you, lets sit down and talk, or chat, or text.  The mindset shift has been real this year and also I have a butt so don’t you tell me that dreams don’t come true!

3 things & the one where I get a letter from Jen Hatmaker’s legal team probably

Social media pisses me off.  I’m not writing this as a passive aggressive swipe at this or that or anyone, I’m saying, I get legitimately angry when I read FB and Twitter.  So, in a fit of rage, I deleted both applications from my phone (I guess it was last Wednesday sometime?) and you know what?  I’ve been zen af (hahahahahah), I’ve done yoga, I’ve read books, I’ve eaten half a container of Halo Top vegansoydairyfree (omg, do you crossfit?) ice cream, and I’ve actually WATCHED the news.  Like at 6:30pm with Lester Holt watched the news.   I downloaded SmartNews and I still get updates and I am informed WITHOUT CONSTANTLY BEING ANGRY!  I’m kidding, I’m still super mad because I can’t imagine how you aren’t at this point, but YEAH.  NO APPS.  Idk why I’m yelling.  But, I’m totally yelling.

I’m not telling you that you need a social media cleanse or that you need to put down your phone, I’m just saying that I need and needed to chill out a little bit because it was stealing my joy.  And also stealing my sleep, I was absently scrolling for like an hour before bed and why?  I’m too old for things to steal my joy.  I can still be informed and vocal about injustices, etc., and NEVER READ THE COMMENT SECTION EVER.  Don’t click expand.  Don’t do it.  People are terrible and will make you sad.  Take my advice.  You’ll be happier.  I will still get serious with you about any number of issues, I just maybe don’t have these apps on my phone for my mental health at the moment and that is fine, dude.

Anyway, so I’ve missed a bunch of stuff being posted and my life went on and that’s incredible.  I will hop on when I have a hot second on break at work  or when I’m drinking my coffee in the morning and skim and scan and then I’m like ‘love you, bye’ in my best Brenda K voice. I’ve started reading a book every time I think about picking up my phone and it’s not classic literature because I think I read on a 5th grade level now and I have to retrain myself to pay attention to anything that is longer than a few sentences.  That was a horrible sentence and I am leaving it, y’all.  Like I said — retraining.  Also, I shattered the bottom right corner of my phone screen a couple weeks ago and I took it as a sign from above that I need to do literally anything else with my life.  I’m serious.  Jesus, be a fence.

In light of all of that hullabaloo up there, let’s go over the three things I am doing right now to ensure my joy and to try and help myself be a better adult and human.  I’m so bad at adulting.  Notoriously bad.  It’s embarrassing.

  1. Waking up before 7:10am on work days.  I live less than one mile from my job because I am blessed and highly favored.  Great, but I can’t get out of bed until the last possible second, I show up to work with no makeup on (which is not bad in and of itself, but I like makeup), wrinkled clothes, and yawning because I literally just woke up.  Guys, I’ve been working the same job for 10 years, you would think I would have getting to work (and actually being prepared for it) by 7:30am mastered.  Not so.  I’m trying to get a cup of coffee in, stare outside at the brightness, splash my face with cold water, and repeatedly tell myself, “You can do hard things” as I try to get out of bed at 6:00am.  6:30am. 6:36am because snooze.   I think I’ve made it to work with makeup on every single day this week, so I am obviously killing number 1.
  2. Reading more.  Books, magazines, Readers Digest, short stories, news papers, nutrition labels, anything that is not my iPhone.  Right now, I’m reading Of Mess and Moxie by my queen Jen Hatmaker and I fully expect to receive a cease and desist order from her publicist if she ever read my blog (OHMYGOSHIWOULDDIE) because she is totally my writing voice inspiration.  I just love you, Jen.  Please be my friend.
  3. Working out.  I know a lot of folks blow this one off and I get that, but I am not lying when I say that I am a better person when I move consistently.  I’m not out here dead lifting 300lbs or squatting my body weight, but I move and I get sweaty and it helps my attitude.  Sometimes I just do yoga.  Sometimes I do plyo or run my guts out.  It’s whatever mood I am in at the moment.  I need to focus on a specific program, probably, but the fact that I am jiggling at least 4 days a week is the best I can offer you and it ain’t bad.  Endorphins and stuff.  And to be clear, I came home and took a nap today.

So, this was supposed to be a list of five things but I can’t think of two more that aren’t obvious choices to better your life like sleeping more, petting tons of cats, and eating whole foods like baby spinach, and egg whites.  Oh, and also Doritos.  Maybe five was going to wear out my welcome and turn into a huge tl;dr block of text which I am not about. Get some quality sleep and eat something green for the love of God!  Maybe that should be the title of my memoir?

I still scroll the book of face periodically and since I started writing this blog I have caught a few things that made me start to write a comment and then I decided that Sarah Sanders wasn’t worth it.  But, what I’m saying is, the screen time is significantly less.  I have seriously almost finished a book in a few days and I didn’t even know I could still read, guys.  So, whatever I’ve started, it’s working and I’m here for it in the least pretentious and preachy way possible.  More reading, more writing (no matter how bad it is…. sorry), more quiet time, more face time with folks I love (Sophie), and more sleep.  Also, more Doritos.

Okay.  Maybe not Doritos.  😦

Anyway, what are y’all doing to relax, unwind, and enjoy life??  How do you self-care?

183.

I talk to God about you and I ask Him what you’re doing.  I hope He hears me. I hope you do, too.

I imagine you walking through fields of flowers, flowers I’ve never seen, but I try to cling to the colors of what might be.  I wonder if your hair is still red, do you still have freckles, and if your hazel brown eyes are still the same. I hope I would recognize you if I saw you, but I can’t be sure..  You’ve visited me in dreams, just like you were on this Earth, and in those dreams you look the same, but I know you’re different, too.

Is your house beautiful?  Is it a cottage like you dreamed?  Are Sawyer and Sally there? How close do you live to Mamaw and Papaw?  Granny and Papaw? I have so many questions, six months worth of what ifs and what could I have done differently and every variant thereof.  I sleep under a blanket of your pictures and it was supposed to just be for a while, but now it’s comforting. Sometimes I lay my face against your picture and cry.  Sometimes I just whisper, “Oh, Mommy” and sometimes, I don’t say anything at all.

I think Heaven is real and you are there.  I think about it a lot. I think about what it would be like to hug you again and feel you embrace me with both arms wrapped around me.  I want to ask what it’s like to have full use of that left arm, to feel no nerve pain, to be whole. I never wished for more time or prayed for it.  I just prayed that you wouldn’t suffer because I knew I could handle thinking about what you have gained easier than I could watching you deteriorate.  I told you that in 2016. I said, “Mommy, I can do this. I can put you on the point [family cemetery]. I can do this life without you before I can watch you suffer on this Earth” and we both teared up, eyes big, staring at each other.  Your eyes told me you didn’t want to leave me as much as I never wanted you to.

I wish for more time now.  I have a lot of trouble with the last two and a half months of your life and coming to terms with not seeing you enough.  We talked everyday, but I didn’t visit enough and I didn’t change my routine. I remember lamenting over not wanting you to feel like I thought you were dying.  I can’t explain it; I knew you were dying, but I didn’t think you really would, which I realize sounds insane. After you died, 3 books about healing scriptures came in the mail to you.  You ordered them at the beginning of October, so I don’t think you thought you were dying, either. You didn’t plan to leave me here. You didn’t plan to leave on my birthday.

My life is measured in who I was before 10/24/17 and who I am after; Those two people are not the same.  In some ways, I am much better. The kindness and softness you offered people is something I aspire to have and be and something I could never quite reach prior to losing you.  Maybe it’s part of my call to fill that gap, though I will never be as kind and inviting as you, I imagine. I feel like I have aged in dog years in the last 183 days. I feel like it’s been one million years and one day all at the same time.

 

 

Everything I have written since October has been some form of a letter to my Mom.  It’s gut-wrenching to read anything I wrote just after her passing and relive that initial loss and pain.  I try to go there as little as possible. I thought I would shift gears in this particular blog and change the voice and stop writing as if I am speaking to her.  I am always speaking to her. I carry her with me in my heart everywhere, but life requires me to be present and I have to keep pressing and pushing myself forward.

I could probably teach a masterclass in loss and grief.  If you’re reading this, you might know me personally or you just follow on social media. You’ve likely watched as my posts veered away from my Mom and back to real life.  Life continued and that is still the craziest thing to me. I had to go on. At some point I realized that moving forward was not forgetting my Mom because of course I could never do that.  Moving forward was healthy, it was living, it was part of the process. The long, never ending, arduous process of grief.

For several months after she passed, time stood still.  I went through the motions of holidays but I don’t remember much about any of those particular days.  On New Year’s Eve, Chad and I went to a friend’s house and I had to heavily self medicate because I was so worried someone would ask me how I was doing.  Spoiler — absolutely awful was the answer. I hardly remember anything about that night other than being in a room full of people I love but feeling like I wasn’t there at all.  I was different, but I knew I had to find my way back to myself.

More often than not, tears sting my eyes at the mention of her name.  When I see pictures of her, I cry and smile at the same time. The joy my Mom brought to my life was unspeakable and everything since her passing has been marked with tangible sadness, but still, we move forward.  She would want it that way. Mom would want her legacy to go on exactly how she lived; full of hope, kindness, and love for people and the Lord. She would want nothing more than for all things concerning her homegoing to be worked together for her children and grandchildren’s good.  She placed her entire life firmly upon that word found in Romans.

I miss my Mom.  Every second of every single day.  I’m not lying when I tell you that a single hour does not pass without her crossing my mind.  I was her clingy child, I held her hand as an adult when we were in public together, I rested my head on her shoulder in church, I was very affectionate with her to the point that I probably annoyed the life out of her.  Never did I truly envision my life without her, without her voice, her laugh, the hilarious faces she would make during conversations, her sometimes too close talking, and how she would bug her eyes out and just peer right at you.  I just didn’t know how this would be. The answer is hard. It’s very hard.

My love for her transcends time and space.  No matter where she is in the universe, she is with me in my heart.  I hold on to that when things get hard, when I feel like I can’t go on without her.  My sweet little Mommy, the most beautiful person I have or will ever know.

another blog about missing my mom volume 3393948394893483

Mommy,

Sometimes I still count days.  Especially on Tuesday.  You went home on a Tuesday, but I don’t have to tell you that.  For some reason, I’ve been replaying it a lot in my head lately.  Those 5 days, the first night showed no indication that we would never bring you home.  When it all first happened, I replayed the days over and over to make sure I never forgot one single detail, but they run together for me now.  As the first night/early morning wore on, it became clearer to me that we were struggling.  I still didn’t think you wouldn’t come home, but I can look back and plainly see the signs, a little over four months removed.

It doesn’t hurt less, but the hurt has evolved into something different, something I can’t quite explain.  I enjoy things again, I’m not always sad, and I laugh a lot.  I know you would love the laughter, because cutting up was all we ever did.  Always out for the HA-HA, right?  Though you tended to be more serious, you know I never let that last very long.  I made you laugh in those 5 days and that was important.  It was good.

There are moments when time freezes and the hands on the clock do not budge.  I relive flashes from those 5 days in ICU and I wonder if something could’ve been done differently.  Did they do everything they could?  Did we make the right choices?  But, they were your choices.  Your wishes.  Until the very last moment, plans were carried out in accordance to what the Lord showed you.  I hope we did okay.  I hope you felt loved and safe and not scared.  I hope Mamaw and Papaw met you and welcomed you.  I love imagining that reunion and all your young faces, both your arms wrapped around your Mom and Dad.  It hurts and gives me joy all at once.

We’re going to have to start packing up the house soon.  I’ve only been twice since you died.  It still hurts too much to see everything in it’s place, just like we left it that night in October.  It hurts too much to see your spot on the couch, empty.  It hurts too much to think of tearing everything apart, piece by piece, and carrying out the last parts that we have of you.  Either way, it all hurts.

I think of you constantly and find you everywhere.  I don’t always cry, but it still happens a lot.  I had an absolutely hysterical story from work to tell you a few weeks ago and when I realized I couldn’t, I cried out in my car, “Oh, Mommy, why aren’t you here?” and I half laughed and half cried.  I’ve been writing this letter for weeks, though.  I wait until I time that I feel really strong, and in less than 60 seconds, I’m crying again.  Shoot, I’m crying right now.  I am so broken and lost without your guidance and love.

Spring is almost here, thankfully.  Only a few more weeks and the longest winter will finally be over.  I have never felt cold, darkness, and sadness like these last four months.  I have never felt emotional pain manifest to physical pain with such force.  I never lied to myself about what was happening with you, but I’ll always say I truly thought we had a few good months left.  I expected you to go in 2018.  But, here we are in the spring of a new chapter, your favorite time of year, so it’s only right we find a way to keep moving forward.  I know you want all of us to be happy.

I’ll never be able to give words to how much I miss you.  I could write for pages and it wouldn’t be enough.  I dream of you often, even if I don’t remember it, but I can always remember your face.  I picture you in Heaven a lot, surrounded by flowers and birds, whole and complete.  You were my sunshine, warm and inviting, happy and light, and I struggle to find that now.  I’m softer than I was prior to October 24th.  I don’t feel the brush of anger as quickly and I process and understand events and people differently.

People say nothing is the same after you lose your Mother, and that’s true.  Life has gone on, but your absence is as broad as the sky and grief can be so unspeakably deep.  I wade through the swift water, constantly fighting against the current, praying that I don’t drown.  Moments in that hospital room haunt me, your eyes searching and pleading, the time you just started at us and I knew you were soaking it all in.  You were ready to see Jesus, but you were as heartbroken about leaving us as we were about losing you.  There will always be an empty part of me that can never be explained or described.  I’ve learned to live with that space and accept that nothing fills the exact shape of you.  Honestly?  I wouldn’t want it to.

I love you, Mommy. Every minute of every day.

grace not perfection

Oh, 2017.

It’s the time of year for posts and blogs that reflect on the last three hundred and sixty-five days.  I remember January 1, 2017.  I’d just come off Christmas with both my parents, my Mom finished radiation treatments, and I was suuuuper motivated.  Suuuuuper selfie taking, look at my progress pics in my sports bra motivated.  Suuuuuper.

It was going to be my year.  I was going to get in the best shape of my life.  I had goals to end negative self-talk, to journal more, to read my Bible more, to spend less time on devices and social media.  I was doing the thing.  All of the things.

I could make a list of the things that happened that derailed me, that put me on a different path, the things I chose to prioritize or that I was forced to prioritize.  I could make that list, but honestly, everyone has that list.  The thing is, I don’t deal well with change, with tragedy, with things going off course, so when they do, my motivation and drive go with them.  I’m not just talking about exercise and eating right, but I’m talking about living a decent life.

To put it harshly, I beg for excuses to not finish every single thing I start.  I have very little work ethic.   I figure the only way to overcome this issue is to own it, acknowledge it, and make the effort to move forward and change.  One phrase I vow to throw away in 2018 is “It’s just how I am” – because there is no bigger cop out or excuse.  Unless we’re saying absolutely hilarious is “just how I am” because that’s true and not changing.

Sometime in July I stopped trying to eat healthy and averaged a handful of workouts per month.  I kept trying to get back on the wagon and I would fall right back off and beat myself to death on the way to the ground.  At the beginning of August, we found out Mom’s cancer spread to her liver and kidneys.  All I could think about was enjoying life with her, but with that news came crippling depression.

Depression brought on eating to cope.

Eating to cope brought on weight gain.

Weight gain brought on negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk brought on not being good enough.

Not being good enough brought on giving up.

Giving up brought on depression……….. (do you see the cycle?)

All the while, I’m putting on the brave face and trying to be everything for and to everyone while my Mom was dying.  I’m going to work, I’m going to appointments, I’m trying my best.  After she passed, the cycle continued but then included sleeping for several hours when I got home from work, withdrawing from others (people and activities that I love dearly), and hating myself.  I still do.  I know that the word ‘hate’ is strong, but I’ve never truly liked what I see in the mirror and I hang an insurmountable amount of my self-worth on the number on the scale and the number on the tag in my pants.  I also, just generally speaking, believe I am not enough.  Enough what?  Enough anything.

Exercise and eating right don’t change that.  My attitude changes that.  I don’t hold anyone else to the standards in which I hold myself and I would not ever, under any circumstance, speak to or about another human being the way I speak to myself regarding… well… me.

Small goals, trying harder, not beating myself up, being kinder to myself, positive self-talk, completing a task, these are my promises to me in 2018. 25 pounds heavier than 2014, I’ve figured out that I’m not going to find my self-worth in any number, but my working on what’s inside of me.  I thought I had nipped this demon.  I thought this was over — turns out, I’m not happy at 138 or 164.  That number literally does not matter.

I’m still struggling with depression.  I still miss my Mom every single day.  But, I can’t keep in this direction.  I think the most important part for me is extending myself grace and kindness when I fall off, because I will fall off at times, and not let it derail everything I’m working towards inwardly.  2018 will not be perfect, I wont even say that I hope it’s better than 2017, because I cannot control 2018.

The only thing I can control is me.

So, I’m going to start working on exactly that.

To be absolutely fair to 2017, it was, far and away, the worst year of my 31 years of life.  However, I’m not going to challenge life by saying, “It can’t be worse” because I would hate for 2018 to redeem this dreadful, no good, awful, rude turd of a year.  I can’t change what’s happened and hating myself doesn’t bring my Mom back to me.  Eating until I’m sick doesn’t bring her back, neither does telling myself how ugly and disgusting I am.  In fact, she would beg me to see myself how she saw me.

I don’t know if I will ever get that point, but that’s what 2018 is going to be about for me.  Kindness to myself and to others and finding a healthy relationship with myself, with food, with others.  So, I guess we’ll get to it.