don’t worry, about a thing

Easier said than done though.  Especially since I am still struggling.

As best I can tell it’s grief, again, in a different form.  Sharper, because I’m not wrapped in the cotton of shock anymore.  Stealthier, because it comes disguised as nervousness, feeling edgy, anxiety – or at it’s worst, paralyzing fear.  Disappointing, because I faced it once already and thought I processed it all.  There is some part of me that is not surprised by this revelation though.  Grief is cyclical.  It comes back in different forms for different reasons.  It has to come back, and it takes a long time – maybe a lifetime – to work through.

Dammit.

I’m not saying I have it all figured out.  This is my best guess.  This is what rings most true for me as I face the fear and ask what it is and why it’s here.  What it answers is that I am still not whole; I still have work to be done.

Here’s what’s miraculous though:  in what feels like a very dark time, the light of Hope shines through.  Actually it always does.

Today it was in the form of an unexpected phone call from a new friend – someone I intuitively knew was on my wavelength but hadn’t shared my story with until today.  What began as an invitation to get our children together ended up being a direct message from the Universe, responding to my requests for help on this spiritual journey and validating what I believe is what my life’s work is supposed to be.  And I mean verbatim, no wishy washy stuff here.  Like she read my mind.  And I’ve been given the opportunity to begin, with just one step, this walk down a new pathway.  Thrilling.  Absolutely, positively, thrilling, and I am overcome with gratitude for being given exactly what I need.

And then, just in case I still had a question in my mind, I had a final sign from JJ in the form of an Elvis t-shirt on a girl I’ve never met in a meeting I hardly get to anymore.

Everything really is gonna be alright.

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fear comes to the fore

I think it’s accurate to say that I relapsed.  I had a setback, a significant one, and it all came to a head (I hate that saying by the way) last weekend.  It’s been a bumpy road since June, as far as I can tell anyway – maybe this all started even earlier but I can’t remember back that far.  Anniversary dates, fleas, transitions with R; all of it piled up until the anxiety and fear got hold of me and I was almost literally paralyzed with fear.  Certainly unable to parent, unable to sleep, and frightened.   Terrified of the feelings that were bringing me back in time to a place where I was fresh into the grieving process, fresh into being a mother, lost in a world where my security had been stolen away in the middle of the night while I slept soundly, for the first time since my son had been born.    Part of that fear was that I was losing control – that I would spiral down even deeper.

I was a new mother and never had the chance to BE a new mother.  Never was able to find my rhythm, to relax into my new role.  Honestly, who knows if I ever would have relaxed, but I never even had the opportunity to try.  At the time I was aware that this was one of many losses, but there was nothing to be done about it.  Shock and grief took all of my energy.  What was left went to R, and to holding the shreds of my life together.  So these feelings are back now.  It’s true that what we don’t deal with doesn’t go away, but I didn’t intentionally bury these feelings – they were just crushed under the weight of everything else.

And now is my opportunity to bring them out into the light.  I didn’t see that last weekend but with some help from the right people and a little calm and a little clarity I do now.

I can’t lie – it bothers me that motherhood and trauma seem to be intertwined for me and right now it is hard to know if I will ever be able to fully separate the two.  Will I always be triggered like this?  The thought frightens me.  I don’t like the idea that there are more landmines like this one lurking.  I haven’t been this much of a mess for a long time and it scared me.

I don’t know what the answer is, except that I see that this is a lesson for me to learn.  I don’t like it but I am going to do the work that’s in front of me because I promised myself I will Live Large.  Each step brings me closer to living the life I was meant to live – I’ve come too far, no way am I going to turn back now.

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everything changes

I’m stuck on this idea of things always being in flux, never static.  I was thinking about how a couple of weeks ago I decided I was going to stop fighting to keep my head above water and adapt instead.  But lately I have been doing just the opposite…struggling, fighting, scratching my way through each day.  It came as a surprise that I didn’t, couldn’t hold on to that sane thought of recognizing things as they are and arranging myself and my expectations according to what is.  Instead I worked so hard to place circumstances into what I thought they should be.  I think that’s what I did, anyway.  It certainly felt hard to be me these last few weeks – though maybe I’m now more fully aware of how hard it was now that they are behind me – and also, they just truly were hard.

So although things will always be moving and changing – maybe another truth is that sometimes life will just be hard, regardless of whether I am flowing with it or fighting against it.

And maybe I can’t always be a relaxed swimmer.  There were moments in these last few weeks when I had to really hang on tight to keep myself together, or the resulting freak out would have been traumatic and not appropriate to the situation.  Maybe sometimes going with the flow feels more like some terrifying amusement park ride and I have to grit my teeth, close my eyes, and hang on for dear life until the ride is over.

But, in keeping with the idea that everything changes, those intense moments are also fleeting.  I may only be calm and serene for a moment, but I’m also only irrational or panicked for a moment too.

And another thing I know to be true:  when it’s all said and done, at the end of each day I come out all right.

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sinking and swimming

Today I wanted to tell someone that instead of trying to keep my head above water I was just going to grow gills and swim.  I meant it as a joke but the more I think about it the better it sounds.  Instead of struggling and working so hard just to get a breath, only to sink again, why not adapt to what is and go with it.  It’s just another way to go with the flow instead of struggling against the current.

Life is what it is and when I fight it I expend energy in ways that don’t benefit me.  By surrendering I am gentler on myself and I can focus my attention on what is important.  (But how do I tell what is important?)

Adapting is the point.  Resisting is the habit to break.  Acceptance, compromise, adaption, and finding joy in the new life I chose (or has chosen me).    It is a calmer, more content, more centered feeling than splashing, struggling, fighting, to stay on the surface.

And maybe that’s part of it too.  In keeping my focus on the surface I miss what’s deeper, underneath.  By straining to stay afloat and by only focusing on that one thing I miss out on all of what lies below.

So today I surrender and sink down below the surface.  Not to give up, not to die but to release my preconceived notions of what I am supposed to do/want/be/achieve/complete and to see what else might be available to me.  I give up the fight and I allow the currents to take me where I am supposed to go, enjoying the ride, the journey, and not worrying about the destination.

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flashback

Today I saw a body on a stretcher being loaded into a van.  I took it to be from a funeral home because two men in suits were putting it in there.

It was the house next to my mom’s.  She called while I was on the way, to warn me that there was an ambulance and 3 police cars next door so that I wouldn’t panic when I got there.  It was a good thing she called because I probably would have freaked.  She said it was probably something bad.

As it was, I got cold…and nauseous…and a little shaky, because it made me start to think about all the rescue vehicles that must have been outside my house that day.  I’m not honestly sure I looked out the window, but the paramedics were there and police.  Maybe a firetruck?  I’ve always wondered if they came with their sirens on – I don’t remember hearing them.  But today I could see what my neighbors saw on the day that JJ died.  They also probably knew right away that it was something bad.

There it is…that sick, fearful feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I allow myself to go back to that time and place.

I never saw them carry you out JJ.  I don’t remember walking down the hallway from the bedroom, but I do know I was in the kitchen and the police officer said they were going to bring you out and I said I thought I should see you one last time to say goodbye but I didn’t want to look at you again because I was afraid to see your face.  He said that if it were him, and I were his wife, he wouldn’t want me to see him like that.  And so I said ok.  And I remember standing – hiding really – in the corner in the kitchen.  And I think someone was there with me.  And then you were gone.  Your body anyway.

What surprised me was how quiet the stretcher was.  I expected to hear it banging and clattering its way out but it was as quiet as death itself.  Nobody said a word, no accidental crash into the door frame.  I didn’t know they were gone, that it was safe to look around the corner, until someone told me so.

Again today I had to hold myself together for Russell.  I couldn’t acknowledge the black hole that opened up a crack inside of my gut – a crack made wider by the memory of that tiny, helpless newborn I had to protect and care for in the middle of such horror.

I didn’t want to remember this today.  I never want to remember it.  I don’t want to think about what happened at the neighbor’s house or the people who are left behind to try and figure out how to piece their lives back together.  I don’t want to think about the stunned disbelief that was with me for so long that I feared it might never go away (yet I also feared that it would go, and I’d be left with the stark inescapable certainty that you were gone).

And yet I did remember it.  And I’m ok.  I’m not there in that place anymore, I don’t have to go through it again.  It is a memory, not reality.

And you showed me three rainbows today, a sign of comfort and confirmation.  A promise of even better days ahead.

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a divine message

I don’t exactly know how to go about explaining what has happened to me this week.  I have been avoiding writing about it because I don’t think my words will do it justice.

Ok, I’m just going to do it.

It started on Sunday, at an author’s lecture at the church my mom attends.  The pastor there often references a book by River Jordan called Praying for Strangers and she was scheduled to speak.  I went, and it was amazing.  As someone who has been on the receiving end of prayers from people known and unknown I have often been overwhelmed by the graciousness and love and comfort I’ve felt, knowing that people were interceding on my behalf to God/the Universe/Spirit to take care of me at a time when I could not take care of myself.  What I didn’t think of was that those doing the praying are also blessed – in ways unexpected and not imagined – but it makes sense – you get back what you give.

Such a simple thing.  A few words strung together in blessing.  Such a profound effect.

I didn’t have time to stay and get a book or have it signed.  My mom surprised me the next day by saying she had her copy signed for me, and added, mysteriously “you won’t believe what she wrote”.  Of course I had to know.  So I asked, but didn’t get a response until the next day.  She couldn’t remember all of it, but it was something like “live large and enjoy this…” something.  She’ll bring the book over later and I can see it then.

Whoa.  That got my attention.  Live large?  Who says that!  She must have known my last name, or maybe that’s what she writes in everyone’s book.

When I finally had my hands on the book I read the full inscription:  “you’re a keeper…live large and enjoy this long life”.  And no – my mom said all she did was hand over the book with a piece of paper that had my first name on it.

WHOA.  That’s pretty incredible.  Even if she does put that in everyone’s book.  But I had to know, so I emailed River Jordan.  I told her what she wrote and just said that the phrase Live Large has a whole lot of meaning for me.  Her response was quick:  no, she doesn’t write that often, didn’t think she had written it again that day, or ever had before.

Well, that made it even more extraordinary.  And I told her so, and why.  Because I wanted her to know that those words blew me away – they are a message to me that came straight from Heaven, in an answer to a prayer I didn’t even formally utter.

Here’s the thing I haven’t mentioned yet –

I’ve had a dream that I’ve been nurturing for a while now.  I want a life different from what I lead now and the only way I can have that life is if I strike out on my own.  I want to make something positive come out of the catastrophe that my life was two years ago – I want to use my experiences to show others that they too can make it through hard times, and that God has a purpose for all of us, and to encourage them to achieve their dreams – just like JJ did before he left this Earth.

And just recently – like only a few weeks ago – this dream has solidified, materialized, the path has opened up, and I’m moving forward.  And I’m terrified.  Because this is my dream!  What if I screw it up?  I have always imitated, rarely do I innovate, so I have no blueprint to follow, no example to look to.  Just myself and the certainty that this is meant to be.  So I was looking for a sign.  Something to tell me that it will work out, to give me confidence to continue moving forward.  I didn’t expect a response though.  I just wrote about it and moved on.

BOY DID I GET A RESPONSE.  The message is loud and clear.

I want to say it’s unbelievable – but it isn’t.  I believe.  I know that there is a Higher Power, and a whole host of spirits and angels, including my special JJ, who are just waiting for us to call on them.  I am humbled, and my heart could burst with gratitude and love for this blessing and all of the others that have been granted to me throughout this journey.

So I heard back from River Jordan, and she said many things that I’ll remember forever.  And then she gave me another gift – she chose me to be the stranger she would pray for tonight.

Who could have imagined this life?  Not me.

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peanut butter french toast

Today I pulled out your griddle, from way up high – the cabinet I can’t reach unless I stand on a stool.

There were cobwebs on it.  It hasn’t been moved in at least two years, three months, and five days.  You’ve been gone a long time, JJ.

When I washed it I noticed the faint smell of peanut butter.  It made me smile in recognition.  Peanut butter french toast was the last thing you cooked on that griddle.

Even though you’re gone, your presence is still everywhere, in places unexpected and surprising.  Where will I find you next?

Posted in Dear JJ, Remembering | 4 Comments

notes from the other side

Today is Friday January 13, the day before the two year and two month anniversary of THE DAY.  I realized the significance of today only because I noticed my heartache was back in a big way.

So I posted on JJ’s facebook wall about it.  Sometimes when I do that it makes me feel like I’m talking to him for real.  I asked him if I’d ever understand…if I’m even supposed to ever understand…but said not to bother answering because I already knew (the answer is no).

He responded.

First, with a song “Calling Elvis” by Dire Straits.  The first song that played on the radio after I got into my car.  The third Elvis sign I’ve received after I asked for it a few weeks ago.  Then, unmistakably.  As I pulled into a parking space at my destination my eye went to the license plate on the car in the next space.  It said ILOVEJIL.

Yes, really.

So, he didn’t exactly answer my questions.  But I did get an I Love You – which reminds me that Love Is The Most Important Thing.

Love is always the answer.

note from the other side

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’tis it really better to have loved and lost?

This blog post made me think of the phrase “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

When JJ died and I was reeling with the shock, drowning in a black place of despair and fear, I thought of this phrase.  Even talked about it a little with a minister friend, and from what I recall we just kind of looked at each other like, is it REALLY better?  I wasn’t sure, but I was leaning toward no.

This pain was more than I thought I could bear.  The cost was too high.  If I hadn’t loved, my heart wouldn’t be a raw wound; my soul would not have been crying out in agony.

I wanted an escape.

Of course there wasn’t one.  I couldn’t undo loving JJ.

A few things happened that changed my mind, and slowly I began to agree with Alfred Lord Tennyson.

I was surrounded by love.  Family, friends, neighbors, strangers that became dear friends, strangers that I never saw or heard from again.  I distinctly felt the love from JJ through these people who were compelled to reach out to me.  And they felt it too.  It was a palpable, visible testimony to the love that JJ and I shared.  One woman said to me that she had never been loved like that, not by her husband or anyone else.

At that moment I understood what a rare gift that love was.  Is.

Not everyone gets it.  So even though I suffered immeasurable loss I treasure and am grateful for the gift I was allowed to experience.

And I know that love never dies.  For that lesson alone, I am willing to live with the cost.

So I continue to seek, and find, hope.

XXVII.

I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam:27

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surprising gifts

Dear JJ,

I know that you know that I had a baby because you wanted kids.  I was so afraid that I would lose who I was – the person I worked so hard to find.

But you wanted to be a dad and couldn’t do it without me.

When the baby was born I thought I was giving you this wonderful gift, and then when you died it was so tragic because the thing you wanted for so long had finally happened and you lost your chance to be the father you dreamed of being.

What I know now, and would never have guessed then, is that you ended up giving ME the gift of a lifetime.  The opportunity to raise this wonderful little soul is the greatest honor and I have found another part of my Self that I never would have discovered otherwise.  I know you know that he brings me unbelievable joy every single day.

I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, have done it without you.

There’s some kind of logic and reason in all of this, isn’t there.

I know you can’t tell me.  But I know you know.

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