I have learned….

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the death of my father.

He was and will always be a lot of things to me.

He was my hero.

He was the first man I fell in love with and wanted to marry (he informed me he was already taken, but would always love me)

He was the man who understood me, often times better than I understood myself.

He was the person I went to for advice with all sorts of issues – personal and professional.

He was gentle.

He was kind.

He was fair.

He understood people in ways I can only dream, and usually his understanding was within minutes of meeting them.

He was quiet, until he did not want to be.

He a laugh as big as the sky.  It was a laugh that make you smile because it was just so full of joy.

He had blue eyes that could be cold when he was in his cop mode, but more often were twinkling with his latest practical joke or love.

His hugs were strong and long.

 

I miss him. I miss him a lot.

I miss all those things I wrote about.  But I just miss his presence in the world.  One of the biggest feelings I had those first few weeks after his death was anger and disbelief that the world did not realize what was gone.  The world should have stopped, even if only for a day, an hour, to mourn a man who impacted so many people.

 

There are parts of this past year that I don’t even remember.  I feel like I have lost time. I was wading through a muddy fog that sucked at my legs and blocked my vision of everything around me. There were times I would get angry with myself because I could not “just get over it”.  Sometimes I would feel so overwhelmed by the rawness of my emotions that I felt as if someone was pouring salt and sand on blistered feet and forcing me to walk miles without end.

 

As the year progressed I would forget for a moment what I had lost.  I could see a break in the fog.  I could laugh and joke.  I could sing and play games with the Cubs.  And I knew that is what he would want me to do.  He would not want me to wallow in grief.  He would be angry that I had lost even one precious moment with my Cubs and with Papa Bear.  This was the man who always told me “I did not make much money when I was in this world, so you better have a cash  bar over my coffin so that you can make some money off me once I am dead”.  He called his 8 year battle with cancer “just a bump in the road”.  Those are things that he would want me to remember and cherish.

 

As 2013 ended and I contemplated this upcoming anniversary and the beginning of a new year I knew I had some choices to make.  Before I could make those choices, though, I needed to reflect on what I had learned this past year.

 

I learned that grief can be so overwhelming that it almost becomes a physical entity.

I learned that there are people who truly love me for me and are willing to sit by my side (physically, in cyber space and on the phone) and pass me tissues as I cry.

I learned I could cry and laugh at the same time.

I learned that no amount of preparation can reduce the pain of loss.

I learned that grief is definitely not a straight path.

I learned to be vulnerable.

I learned there is strength in vulnerability.

I learned that even in the midst of the deepest sadness God is there, waiting with open arms.

Still Struggling

I have taken a long hiatus from  blogging.  Part of it is because I have been trying to stay focused on the important people in my life and spending time with them.  The other part is because I don’t want to sound like a broken record.  I am still grieving.  I am still hurting.  I am still struggling to find that “new normal”.   I realize that it has not been a year yet, and because of that I am trying really hard to cut myself some slack.  But there are times that the fog still makes it hard to move forward.

We are in the middle of Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  I am terrified of that holiday this year.  Honestly, I have been scared since Thanksgiving.  This has always been my favorite time of the year.  I love everything about it – the decorations, the music, the specials on TV, the family traditions.  One tradition was that Dad and I always went out on a “booming around” day.   It was a shopping day where it was just the 2 of us (until the Cubs came along and then they came with us) and we went shopping for mom and whoever it was I needed to buy a special present for (boyfriends as I was growing up and then gifts for Papa Bear as we started dating and throughout our married life).    The day would always include Dad taking me out for lunch.  As I got older the day became more about the lunch and the conversations we shared than about the actual shopping.  When I graduated from Nursing School and started working he would pull out his date book on Thanksgiving weekend and say “we need to plan when we can do our day”.   We always aimed for weekdays since the stores would be less busy.   Until I was in my late teens the man had me convinced that he did not know how to wrap a gift, so I always wrapped the gifts for him after we got home from shopping.  Once I was living on my own I would always have a big pot of chili waiting for us so we could warm up while I wrapped.   This will be the first year in 46 years that we have missed a shopping day.   I have tried to think of so many ways to “honor” that tradition and create a new one.  I have yet to come up with one that feels right.  I thought about doing a spa day, but money and scheduling just did not work out.  I have tried to think of other ways….go out with the Cubs for a shopping day,  make it a family day of shopping, do some sort of service project with the family.  Nothing has worked out from a scheduling standpoint, and honestly, nothing has worked out from a feeling “right” standpoint either.

But this is just one of the things that have changed.  There are some not so great memories of last year’s Christmas that I have to work through.  Mom and dad usually came up to decorate our tree with us, but last year dad did not feel good enough for long enough to come up, so our tree did not even get decorated until 2 days before Christmas.  I am not even in the mood to decorate the tree this year.   After Christmas Eve Mass last year is when dad took a very bad turn for the worse and they had to leave our home in the wee hours of Christmas Morning while the cubs were still asleep.  It was the 1st Christmas morning that the Cubs did not spend with my parents.

During this precious time of the year I am just sitting in a low spot.  I know I have to work through the pain.  I know that have to just survive until the healing starts to occur.  I know that eventually there will be a “new normal”.  But right now, at this moment, it hurts.  And I want things to “old normal” again.  But normal would mean he would be in pain again.  Normal would mean that the loss was still going to occur.   Neither of those things would I want for him or my family.   But that does not stop what I am feeling right now, at this moment.   All I do right now is to cry out to the only one who knows completely about my pain and hang on to the faith that has been given to me.

Out of Touch?

I recently had a Facebook “discussion” on the healthcare bill and what some people see as it’s infringement on religious liberty/freedom.

 

As an American and our fervent belief in “rights” and freedom and democracy,  I have had and continue to have a difficult time accepting the idea of  “Kingship”, and “submitting” to God.  I will also freely admit that I have thought and prayed hard about many of the “rules” of the Catholic Church.   I am a work in progress, and I figure I will still be questioning up until the day I draw my last breath.  Only through my questions does my faith grow.  But even when my beliefs are set and I know deep in my heart and soul they are true and right, when someone presents me with a differing point of view I listen.

I listen because I know that somewhere they have a valid point of view.

It may not be valid with the context of my beliefs, but it is valid to them and in order to respect them I have to respect their point of view.

That does not mean that I endorse it, but it does mean that I am giving them the freedom to believe what they want to believe.   It means that I give them very human right to think and feel and make a choice on their own.   It means that within their thought process I recognize that their point of view has been determined by something within their life – a teaching, an experience, an article.   My thought is to get at why they see them the way they do.   Everyone has something I can learn from them.   Without listening to them I can’t learn.  I may not change my position on things, but I that does not mean I have not tried to understand and learn.

Anyway –

Back to this friend with whom I was having a discussion.  I appreciate the fact that she gave me her point of view.  It reminded me that not everyone starts at the same point.   I also appreciated her acknowledging that we were not trying to change each other’s mind and that we could remain friends even while agreeing to disagree.   Having friends like that have helped me accept my own self-worth.  They allow me to have my opinions and don’t mock me for having them.

Starts and Stops

I have not been writing frequently because there are so many emotions that I have been feeling that…

a) don’t need to find their way out into cyberspace, cluttering it up with negativity

b) are so repetitive that after the first 20 times you hear them you won’t ever want to come back to this site

c) have cluttered my mind so much that I haven’t been able to focus on what I want to write

So I ask you to please be patient as I stutter around and try to figure out my new normal.

Never being one to stay organized for more than 15.3 seconds, my cluttered and clouded mind has decreased that time to about 3.2.  I have become a relatively decent typist, but there is no way I could complete a post in that short a time span.   My to-do list is huge, as is the list of topics that I want to write about.   I have a calendar on which I plot out my posts – or at least topics I want to cover, if not the specifics.  So far I have moved topics 4 different times.  So you see, I am not ignoring the blog, or you readers, all 4 of you.  I am simply slogging along through the mist, waiting for the sun to burn through and allow me to figure out how to reconnect my brain.

Unloading

Since the day I could form words on paper I have loved to write.   I enjoy the artistic part of crafting the letters together to form beautiful script.   I play with words until they create the perfect image in my mind.  Then I actually write them and my script looks like chicken scratch and my word images become a jumble that really don’t do justice to what I had created in my mind.  But that is OK, because when I write in my personal journal, I don’t care what others think, because it is not for them.  It is for me.  It is my safe zone to unload all that boils in me all day.   Now one big problem I have is keeping my writing to something less than the length of  “War and Peace”.   That is why I have the journal I use.

It is full of prompts that focus me on the important parts of my day.  The space to answer those prompts is large enough to allow a couple of sentences, which forces me to really think about my answers and to distill my thoughts to their purest form.  The back of each page of prompts is a plain pages with lines so that I can free form anything that was not covered in the prompts.   Often I use that page as a gratitude journal.  One of the struggles of depression is finding the good in a day, especially when buried under the dark feelings. My mother gave me the exercise when I was a child, to report to her one good thing about the day when she was tucking me in at night.  I have carried that forward to my journal and I have found, even on my darkest days that I stop writing the good things only because I have run out of space on the page.  Not every day is that easy, but as long as I keep up my journaling and writing, it becomes a habit to focus on the good and identify it before I identify the bad.  My snarky sarcastic jabs lessen and I become a much nicer person.

I had fallen away from journaling for quite a long time.  When my dad’s cancer came back this last time I knew I needed to dig my journal out again and start writing.   But I was having a really rough time and just could not get motivated.  So I checked my e-mail and found a 50% coupon at one of my favorite craft stores,  marched myself in and spent the whopping $3.50 on myself and bought a pen that creates lovely writing even out of my scrawling hand!

As I write I imagine I am a regal lady who has wonderful history to record for posterity instead of a working suburban mother of 2 just trying to make ends meet.   In reality, though, when I write with that pen my writing becomes art, it becomes more important, if to no one else but me.  And at that moment, as I pour out my day onto the page and work to make sense of the struggles and celebrate the victories and fulfill my mother’s request to find something good at the end of the day, I am writing a unique and priceless story because no one else will ever do the things I do or feel the things I feel in exactly the same way.   And by filling in the blanks on the daily page I empty myself so that the next day I can once again be filled with the love, laughter, and joy that my family brings to me each and every day.

The mist….

There is something that has caught me by surprise during my mourning for my father. It is the foggy, disconnected, numbness that I am feeling. It is not an all pervasive thing – I am not saying that I don’t feel anything. There are times, though, that I feel like I am wandering around a field in a dense fog and can’t seem to find any landmarks to get me home. I guess the problem is that I have to figure out what exactly is home since the home that I have known for 45 years has been permanently changed. As I walk through this field I can’t see the furrows and am unable to prevent myself from tripping, losing my balance, and sometimes landing face first in the mud, scratched and bleeding. I know eventually the sun will come out again and burn off the mist. I also know that no matter how bright it shines there are always going to be pockets of fog which will engulf me from time to time for the rest of my life. But I am tired of feeling this way. I know it has only been 3 weeks, I know I need to give myself more time. But I have never been a patient person, and I am even more impatient than usual. I don’t want to feel this constant ache, this disconnect from the rest of the world. I go about my daily life, working, taking care of my family, going to church, starting back to TKD, but what I really want is for the world to stop for a little while, to realize exactly what has been lost. But that is not how life works. The world continues to revolve, people continue to live their lives, and eventually I will be back to “normal”. But for right now, I am going through a lot of soap and water and band-aids as I clean myself from each tumble in the mud.

Temp Check

Today is not Monday,  it is not even Tuesday!  Somehow the week has really slid past me and I have not written a thing.  I am not sure how I manage to lose track of time like that.  I wish I could blame it on something like the emotions of grief, but I have to admit that I am a major procrastinator and I just did not get stuff done.  Now, I will say that there have been some serious disruptions to my sleep because the Cubs have been very needy and not sleeping well themselves.  They are going through the normal fears that occur in a loss.  They are afraid that Papa Bear and I are going to die or just disappear.   So there have been several long nights of sitting up and holding one or the other Cub while they slept and giving them squeezes and whispered assurances that I am there when they get restless.   I hate that they have to go through this.  Like any mom, I wish I could protect them from all the pain, the loss, the disappointments, the hurt feelings, and anything else that takes away their innocence and belief in a perfect and safe world.  But I am glad that I am here to help them through it, even if there are times that I know I say the wrong thing or I snap at them when I am going through my own emotional upheavals.

Anyway…..I think this is how I end up losing track of time!

So on Mondays I try to do a temp check of where I was last week and how I can improve the upcoming week.  That includes evaluating things like exercise (or lack of), my dietary planning and execution (healthy or otherwise),  how the message from Mass is going to impact my week, how much time I committed to deepening my friendship with God, and how much effort I put into being the wife and mother God wants me to be.   In order to increase my accountability, I decided that I needed to put some of that our here in cyberspace for all 3 of you who read this little collection of words.   So here it is…..

I have gotten up and started moving again.  I have not managed to get back to the TKD DoJang for a few reasons – all of them fairly whiny and not worth your time right now.  But I have managed to get off the couch, raise my heart rate and sweat just a bit.  I have done that using one of my very favorite work-out DVDs –

Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away the Pounds.

 

I was introduced to Ms Sansone’s videos through another blogger, Ellen.  Honestly, it was her blog, along with Baby Cub, who managed to get my saggy baggy body moving again.  But back to Ms Sansone’s videos.  They are easy to do (I did not even come close to falling down once – score one for the video since I managed to fall down several times in TKD) and don’t require any type of coordination (also another attribute that I sorely lack).

Starting to move again after almost 3 months of doing nothing, I was very glad to do this in the privacy of my home.  It also gave me the chance to get out some emotions that I was keeping bottled up.  There were several times that I would march around my living room with tears coursing down my face and screaming just because I was alone and could.  It is time for me to get out of the house and back into society, but I needed that time for some emotional healing, and for the most part I do that by curling in on myself until I am able to gain some sort of control.   Ahhh, control – an illusion, but one best saved for another day.

Well, there you have it – my emotional and physical temp check for the week.