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.

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until this winter is over

Last night, I saw you in a dream.

We were in the tiny house on 201, the white cinder block 900 square foot house that I spent the first 13 years of my life.  I was sitting in front of the old white dryer in the bathroom, the one where the clothes basket sat on top and Andi’s makeup lined the left side.  We never had a lot of room, especially not for 4 people.  You were talking, and I could hear you, but you never acknowledged me that I can remember.  You stood in front of the sink, at an angle, facing your tiny mirror that you always used to put on your makeup.  The mirror that had a cling on of Winnie The Pooh because you never cared if I put my interests everywhere. Bekah called Pooh “Pee-ah” and we loved it so much.  We rolled.  Anyway, I was pulling your clothes out of that old dryer, but I knew you were gone.  It was so strange.  I could see you, and I was aware of your presence, but I knew you were gone.  I pulled the shirts out one by one and cried out, ‘Oh, Mommy’ looking at your sweet little clothes.  There were only two shirts, a soft blue crew neck sweatshirt that looked far too old fashioned for you, but it said “Mom” on it.  The other was a far too small Valentine’s Day shirt that also didn’t look like anything you would ever wear.  I cried as I folded the shirts and I kept saying through tears “Mommy. Oh, Mommy…” and even though you were there, you didn’t say anything to me and I didn’t say anything to you.  I woke up in a struggle, covered in sweat, and immediately started crying.

It’s not easy missing you.  I’ve worn everyone out with the stories and with simply exclaiming how much I miss you, and it honestly doesn’t even scratch the surface of the cavernous valley that is my heart without you.  In my mind, I replay conversations and moments as much as I can, as much as humanly possible, and still function day to day.  I see you standing in your every day clothes in the homeplace in front of the kitchen sink, washing out two glasses because Lord, don’t let those dishes sit.  If I close my eyes, your movements are fluid and I can place myself with you, anywhere we have been or could be.  I know what you would say, I know how you would laugh, I know what your hug would feel like.  Better than all of that, I know how your hair would feel against my cheek and exactly how it would smell.  Details like your hair or what your hands looked like are the things I took for granted in this life.  I can remember them now, but I fear the day that they slip away from me or will no longer be as fresh. For now, I enjoy them.  I cry with them.  I find comfort in them.

I remember rolling my eyes at so many things you would say.  One time, we were driving and you noticed an opening in the clouds shaped like a heart.  You always noticed clouds and I never notice clouds.  You said, “Look, God gave us a heart to tell us He loves us.” and I thought, “Yeah, okay Mom…” and I think I probably just giggled or something.  In your absence, things like that stick with me.  Now, I call those instances “Prime Mom” or “Prime Brenda K” because they’re so precious.  I know you weren’t perfect, but your heart was as close to flawless as anyone I believe I will ever know.  The kindness that permeated from you should be imitated and it humbles me now.  I can think of the times you would point at a bird, or talk about the leaves, or how the rays of sun came into the house according to season – all things I never noticed or cared about – and I now see how you found beauty and love in everything, in every instance, and in every creature.  I miss that.  I wish I was more like that.

You were the very best part of my genetics, my only hope at beating the selfish, arrogant, self-centered turd that I can be.  You knew I could be good, and you knew just how good.  You always remembered the soft hearted little girl whose feelings hurt too easily, the one who cried at the end of the book when the kitty cat finally made it home after a long winter, and the one who boo hoo’d all the way home with you every time we left Papaw’s after he died.  I never considered what it would be like to make the drive home from that empty house again.  Honestly, I could write a book of things I never considered.

I wasn’t ready to write this, but I suppose no one ever is.  I thought we had more time.  I stared at you on your 64th birthday and I thought you’d have one more.  I knew there wouldn’t be many, but I thought we had at least one.  We didn’t even make a big deal out of it and I didn’t get one picture of you on that day.  Had I known it was the last birthday I’d ever celebrate with you, well, I guess I would’ve worried you to death.  I’m sure that’s why we never get to know, isn’t it?  Because, I worried you to death anyway.  I know there were things you didn’t say in fear of worrying us.  I probably wore you out, didn’t I?  I just wanted to make sure you were okay.  But, I know you’re okay now.  ‘Okay’ being an understatement, I am sure.

The depression is overwhelming and I know you would hate that.  You knew better than most people how I struggle.  I do the best I can, but there are so many naps.  I’m so exhausted from acting like I am okay, but I think I do an okay job hiding my grief.  I still don’t know how I’m supposed to do any of this.  Working 40 hours a week is the best I can offer, anything beyond that usually gets slept through.  I’m trying, but it’s still unclear to me how I’m supposed to navigate this world without you, so I look for you.  I’ll keep looking, too.  I’ll keep looking until I see you again.

four weeks

I’ve tried to write something beautiful and wordy about grief and what the last four weeks have been like, but I don’t have the words.  I’m out of fancy, I’m out of adjectives, I’m out of anything except brutal honesty; It sucked, it sucks, it has sucked, it will suck, it’s awful, it’s terrible, it’s no good, it’s very bad.  Anyone who tells you ‘time heals’ is apparently not built like me or I am just absolutely horrific at this whole grief thing.  I know, I know, everyone tells me not to be so hard on myself, but I’m just being transparent.

Four weeks ago, on my frigging birthday, my Mom died.  I STILL say it over and over and over to myself. Like, what?  You have to be kidding me, but every single time, it’s still true.

Whatever, I know I wrote this before, but this is how I deal.  I had intentions of keeping a journal, but I don’t know how many times I can write “I miss my Mom” or some variation of that statement.  I REALLY MISS MY MOM, YOU GUYS.  I miss the world that existed before October 24, 2017, the world that included my beautiful Mother and her perfect heart.  I miss her being a text or call away, I miss driving 13 minutes (if I drove too fast) to her house in my house shoes and spending the evening with her every other Friday.  I miss her mashed potatoes, her sweet tea, her salads, her sweet hugs, how she would laugh when Tommy and I would cuss (nothing too bad!) and always say, “I know I shouldn’t laugh, but you’re both so funny!” and shake her head because she gave up on our potty mouths years ago, I miss her praying for Kentucky to “win in the name of Jesus”, and I just miss her existing.  I miss everything about her.

If anything, I’m probably worse than I was at the beginning.  Settling into a life without my Mom is like having my favorite blanket ripped away and burnt in front of me.  Every night, I pray that I will see her when I sleep (I haven’t yet).  Typically, I cry myself to sleep, or cry multiple times a day, but you’d probably never know it.  Sometimes I get caught crying at work and nobody really knows what to say, because what do you say?  There’s no timetable for this stuff, there’s no handbook, there’s no outline, there’s nothing but you trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other every single day.  It’s exhausting and sometimes maddening and sometimes just plain sad.  Sometimes, I’m just so sad.

Four weeks in to this new life, and I just feel so dramatic that I annoy myself.  Chad continually assures me that nobody expects me to just pick up and be fine, but my anxiety is like – people are annoyed by you and your sadness, it’s been a month, you should really be doing better than this.  Stupid anxiety.  I have this running joke where I say, “I don’t know if you know this, but I miss my Mom” to Chad and he always says, “I know, honey” because coping mechanisms are weird.  And honestly, that’s just one of my weird things I do, the others are dark and would probably offend everyone reading this.  I’m just weird.  Also, I will absolutely cry when I hug your Mother, just ask both my Mother-in-Laws.  I also cry when I hug my Aunts because they remind me of my Mom.  Listen, let’s be serious, I’m just going to cry.  It doesn’t matter what happens, I’m probably going to cry about it, it’s just what’s happening right now.

Okay, and grief brain (or whatever this is) has to be comparable to pregnancy brain, because I can’t remember anything anymore.  I have an unbelievably good memory, it’s terrifying most of the time, but I can’t tell you anything specific about the last four weeks.  Specificity would require focus and Lord knows I don’t have any of that.  Completing tasks, staying on task, not getting distracted, it’s like an act of congress.  I finally got my house in order on Sunday and it took me all day, granted it was REALLY bad, but it shouldn’t have taken that long at all.  I aimlessly sit and stare at pictures of her, the same ones, over and over, or go through my Facebook and read her comments on anything I ever posted or wrote.

I know my Mom had cancer, I fully recognized that, but I still have not wrapped my head around how COPD and pneumonia formed a super storm and took her in less than a week.  That part was, and still is, so shocking.  She was actually doing pretty well prior to October 18, and stupid me allowed myself to believe that we still had more time.  I thought we’d make it out of this year.  I really thought she would turn 65, and she may not be well when she did, but I thought she would still be here.  I know tomorrow isn’t promised and all of that crap, but I’m so tired of hearing it.  I’m allowed to be shocked that my Mom died when she was just 64.  People live to be older than that with their 90-year-old Mothers.  I never really expected that, but my goodness.

Everyone’s hurt is so blaringly different.  So many of my close friends lost their Mother younger than I am now and I feel like I am taking away from their hurt when I say I feel too young to be without my Mom.  But, I feel too young to be without my Mom.  I’m not angry at God, but I get extremely resentful of other people and I know that’s not a good place.  As soon as I feel it, I work through it, because I am genuinely so happy for anyone who has never had to feel any of this.  You are blessed beyond words, and I don’t use the word blessed very often about anything, really.

God, the universe, whatever, I get it that no one owes me anything. I’m not the first person who has lost their Mother (or a parent), I fully realize that.  So many of you reading this get it, and I’m sorry, I hurt for you.  I hurt so deeply for you.  Maybe I had never lived the full scope of excruciating loss, but I have now, and my empathy meter is off the charts. I ache to my very core thinking about my sister and my brother what I know they feel, I could weep thinking about my Mom’s sisters, it all just absolutely kills me now.  I don’t write anything for anyone to feel sorry for me, I write it because I want you to know if you’re reading this and maybe can’t find the words, you aren’t alone.  Whatever your great loss is, you are not alone.

I really, really, really, really miss my Mom.  Four weeks later.  I miss her more with every single passing day.  But, I wouldn’t bring her back as she was for me.  I love her too much for that.

grief & loss

15 days since I have heard my Mother’s voice without the interference of a bipap mask. 

13 days since I felt her hand squeeze mine for the last time as we both knew goodbye was imminent.

On her last really good night (Saturday), I fed her baked potato, salad, and a few bites of a frosty from Wendy’s. We laughed.  Tommy, Melissa, and Chad sat with me as I fed her. Andi was finally getting some sleep, the few precious hours she actually got over the 5 day stint in the ICU.  Mom looked at Chad and told him how much she loved his beard.  I’m sure other things were said, but I can’t remember them right now.  She was precious; We brushed her hair and put her lotions on, we made sure everything was so-so just as she liked it.  She was our Queen (she loved that term for people.. and cats), we doted on her and pampered her in life and ultimately in death.  And she deserved it.  If anyone ever deserved love and affection, it was Mommy. 

The kindest soul I have ever known, my Mom never had a bad thing to say about anyone.  I mean that, I’m not just saying it to make her sound good because she’s gone.  On the off chance she did say something, she would stop and ask God to forgive her for being ‘in her flesh’.  She always wanted me to be softer with people (and myself) because she knew my heart better than anyone else.  It’s pretty big, believe it or not.  Mom was an empath; she felt your loss, your wins, your happiness, your sadness, and she felt it all deeply.  She fervently prayed for people she had never met as if she knew them personally.  I find myself in those words.  I always did, but in this sea of grief, I hurt so deeply for others who have felt loss of this magnitude.  Things that once seemed important, being “right” or having the last word, no longer matter.  Maybe they will again, but I can’t be sure.  I don’t know if I want them to be important again. 

She would’ve loved a morning like this; crisp air, fall leaves, the sabbath.  She loved dreary days as much as sunny days and found beauty in everything and everyone.  I mean it when I say that she was my hero.  My Mom, my best friend, my spiritual advisor, my Dad; She wore so many hats and she wore them well.  She was everything. 

I can’t say I know how to navigate this grief and this loss.  I lost all of my grandparents before I was 30 and the truth is, that pain isn’t comparable.  But, I am trying.  I’m working in my house today, grocery shopping, I might even have the energy to workout.  I’m trying to figure out this new life without my Mom.  Not because I want to, but because she would want me to. The void is deep and wide, cavernous and seemingly never ending.  But, I have to try.  

Hug your sweet Mother today. Tell her you love her and never leave anything unsaid.

Phrases like ‘white cell count’ didn’t mean much to me until recently.  That’s the thing with cancer, you watch other people go through it, but it’s like seeing lightning off in the distance; The danger is there but your life continues.

Your life continues until the lightning strikes too close to home.

My home is on fire from that lightning strike and I cannot escape this nightmare.  My mind often drifts to the flames and I know that I can’t save anything.  The helpless feeling is inescapable, my depression is palpable, and I still must get up every single day and forge forward, no matter how much I want to stay in bed and sleep.

And I want to sleep.  I want to sleep all the time.  Constantly, never ceasing, my urge to sleep and shut everything out is the only way I’ve figured out how to cope with what’s going on with my Mom.  And really, it’s not coping at all.  It’s probably the opposite of coping.

Everything is exhausting.  Faking smiles, talking about having ‘good’ days, discussing treatment plans with people I don’t know, on top of 40 hours a week of customer service at my job.  I’m not eating healthy, I’m barely working out, because when all is said and done, all I can do is sleep.  I can’t imagine what a shit wife/friend/sister/human I am right now.

My Mom is my entire life and I mean that.  I know people say it, but I mean it.  When I was three years old and my Dad left, I stuck to her like glue.  I couldn’t spend one night away from her, not because I missed her, but because my heart couldn’t stand that idea of her sleeping alone.  I slept with her until I was 11 years old.  She has always been my person, my biggest fan, and the least critical of me and all my insanity and neuroses.  She loves me, dude.  And I love her just the same.

You can’t imagine it will ever be your parent until it’s your parent.  You imagine a life where your parent lives to be in their 80’s, lives long enough to hold their great grandchildren, and never fathom a day when they might not be there anymore.  I hope if my Mom reads this blog, she knows that I don’t believe she is dying, but watching her suffer is hard as heck and this is my only outlet.  Writing is all I know.

I can’t fix her.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t make this better or take it from her, and that kills me.  I don’t know that anyone deserves cancer, but I can certainly tell you that she doesn’t.  I’ve never quite worked through my anger about what she’s going through, and I’ll question the life out of “God’s Plan” so miss me with that.

Just, honestly?  Everything just sucks so badly.

That’s all.

when you are trolled by life volume 249034902384902348903248903489290

I’ve got a lot of questions.

I’m not always the best Christian.  In fact, I may be the worst.  Truly.  My sin and my flesh would embarrass most everyone reading this, but I’d venture that if you were honest with yourself, yours would, too.  I am nothing if not honest and I reckon you already know that.

Last week, I wrote about how angry I was with God about what was happening with my Mom.  I realize by stating that publicly, I opened myself up to a plethora of platitudes (and I got them).  I was honest about my feelings anyway.

I was mad because I know the level of faith my Mother has and it is unfair to think of her struggling with something that was supposed to finished.  I was mad because it shouldn’t happen to people like my Mama, or my sister in law’s Mama, or children, or… or… or… (this list goes on and on).  Perhaps anger is an immature reaction, but nobody else gets to decide that for me.  As human beings, we go through the stages of grief on an individual basis.

Grief and acceptance of circumstances are an emotionally draining, life sucking roller coaster of doubt and pity; you will be bruised, you will be beaten up, you will hurt, and you will be broken.  These are just the facts.

Last week, we were bruised and bloodied, and all I could do was beg for some good news.  I remember saying, “I just need it to not be as bad as they think it is.” and that was the best I could muster.  My Mama, though, she was not defeated.  She KNEW we were getting good news yesterday.  See, that’s the kind of faith I’m talking about, and even if we didn’t get the news she wanted, she still would’ve had it.  “He is still good.” she would’ve said, and I’m sure of it.  I’m just not sure I would’ve been able to agree.

I wish I had the kind of faith that made me agree.

These are the kinds of things I really obsess over and spend a lot of time turning over and over in my mind.  Why did my Mom get good news yesterday and yet, so many other folks don’t?  I don’t have those answers.  I want them, I want them so badly for the people I love and care about who are going through this, and for people that I don’t even know.  I want something more tangible than ‘bad things happen to good people’ and ‘it rains on the just as well as the unjust’ because I’m just not satisfied with those answers in the face of imminent, horrible pain, suffering, and loss.

Maybe not being able to ‘trust God’s plan’ makes me a bad Christian.  I remember talking to my brother a couple of weeks ago and I said, “Mom said that God’s got this.” and Tommy said, “Does he?” and all I could say was, “I don’t know.”

I don’t always know, but I scrape my way back to the foot of the cross and I beg Him to love me, flaws and all, doubts and all, rebellious flesh and all, questions and all, and He does. I will open up my most broken parts and tell you that sometimes I question if God is even there, I get frustrated and upset, I’m not good at church, I’m not good at (always) being kind, I’m less than stellar with my potty mouth, I do things that would probably be a stumbling block to most of you reading this, and I am honest about them all.  I don’t hide anything about who I am and I can’t hide anything about who I am to God anyhow.

That being said, I am clinging to the news that there is no cancer in my Mama’s kidney’s with the greatest trepidation and the most sincere hope.  She told me she believed God would heal her, and I’m hesitant to say that’s what happened (or is happening) because so many other people believe and the healing never comes.  But, I can tell you that I saw those scans with my own eyes and an oncologist looked straight at her and said the words ‘advanced cancer’ and then there was literally nothing on a PET scan a few days later.  I can tell you that with certainty because I lived it.  Whatever was in those scans last week was either never there or was removed and I don’t know which it was, but I will certainly breathe a sigh of relief and thank God through it all.

And you better believe I’ll hug my sweet Mama’s neck just a little bit tighter for as long as I possibly can.

i couldn’t possibly have a title.

I have stared at this blinking cursor for what feels like an eternity.  I’m not sure where to start or what to say, so I’ll just start typing and see where this ends.

Life is not fair.

I hate that saying.  Of course life isn’t fair.  Of course I know that.  Life isn’t fair.

That phrase has ruminated through my skull for the last 24+ hours.  I replay the moment Dr. Lopez pulled up the radiologist’s report of the pelvic scan my Mama had done yesterday and it said “consistent with metastasis” over and over and over again in my head.  My sister made a sound, a gasp, I don’t know, and Mom and I sat there silent.  I think I nodded.  I think.  Maybe.

This was the moment we feared the most.  No, I don’t live in fear, but reality exists for a reason, and the possibility of this happening never left the back of my mind.  But, it still feels very surreal.  We stood in the lobby awaiting our respective turns in the bathroom and my sister said, “This doesn’t feel real” and I nodded.

“This is what we were afraid of this whole time. This news.” Andi looked at me and I looked at her and we were both completely blank.

“I know.”

Life is not fair.

We don’t have all the facts, a treatment plan, or a full scope of what’s happening, but I can tell you this from the jump – I am not ready to give up my Mama.  I guess that’s pretty selfish since a lot of people reading this have given up a parent, but I’m nothing if not honest.  I’m not trying to do any of this.  Nobody ever is, huh?  Yeah, I get it.

Watching a natural disaster unfold never seems entirely real because it isn’t you.  You can hurt for folks, but you aren’t living their nightmare, so it’s not the same.  I have wept for folks experiencing devastation and loss, I ache for them, I pray for them, but it was never me.  I can remember hearing bleak diagnoses and prognoses for other people and feeling grief for them, but it still wasn’t me or mine.  My day continued and my life had to move forward as normal.

At this moment, I am trapped inside a hurricane, frozen in my own questions and grief.  I am so angry.  Not for myself, believe it or not, but because life is so unfair.  It should be anybody OTHER than my Mother.  As if life hasn’t already taken enough from her or dealt her enough crap hands.  A natural disaster is unfolding and I can’t do anything but watch.  There was no way to truly prepare, but there never is.  We will watch helplessly and pray to God there is something salvageable when this storm, too, passes.

I am so mad at God, just like I was last year.  I keep muttering, disgusted, “You weren’t supposed to let this happen again” but I’ll still call on Him because it’s all I know to do right now.  I don’t deserve His mercies, but my Mama certainly does.  More than anybody, she does.

I am not giving up on my Mom, but the only thing I know to do is write when my heart feels this way.  This burden, this heavy cloak of dread, depression, and pain weigh on me and this is my outlet.  I will be strong for her and everyone else.  I will put on the straight face and deal with what comes.  I will be the rock, steady and solid, no matter what comes.

Right now, I must believe that she will beat this, too.  I must believe it.  I do believe it.

I believe that she will beat this, too.