Hey guys! Just wanted to let you know I’m still here with plans to keep writing. I’m just feeling kinda stuck right now. I need to give myself the opportunity to heal from losing Haley, so that everything can start to eeb and flow again. Including my thoughts.
Today was the celebration of life service for Haley. It was a beautiful day and the service was held at a golf course, so it was all the more magic to absorb. I have to admit, my words are still kind of stuck. I would however, like to share the 2 images below. I was recently asked to explain Haley and I simply said, “Haley is light.” Notice the random pink prisom in the corner on the first picture?? That photo was taken on my walk this morning before her service. Then, as we were leaving her service late this afternoon, I stopped to take another picture. The sky was again a similar shade of pink. Even in death, she is light. 💕
My girlfriend called me out of the blue this morning and asked if I had time to meet for a last minute pedicure. Without even thinking about it, I said yes. I immediately got out of bed and jumped in the shower to shave. You can’t show up with hairy legs to the nail salon, right? I don’t know why that’s such a sin, but I’m sure anyone who has had a pedicure agrees. If not, more power to you! I personally think we should get the winter season off from shaving anyway. Kind of like No Shave November. Am I right??
Anyhow, I got ready, eye shadow and everything. Eyebrows matched and the cold dry air was awesome for straightening my hair. I felt great! Usually, I’d already started freaking out, thinking I should probably call and cancel. It was the weirdest thing. I’ve always been very social, but all of sudden the thought of lunch with a friend was way too much to handle. Even a text message or a voicemail was too overwhelming to have to deal with. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see or hear from anyone. I was horribly lonely. I just felt like I had let everyone down. The shame and guilt that I had created in my head was ruling and ruining my life. I spent 5 months avoiding all emotion. I literally turned them off. Of course, the meds I had been prescribed were also helping with that. I was more a zombie than a being during that time.
This morning however, I was excited to be getting out of the house and into the world. At noon, the side roads were still covered in ice, but I knew the freeway would be mostly clear and it was. The sky was bright blue. Most buildings and parking lots were still covered in undisturbed snow. I arrived to the salon a few minutes early, which is a miracle in itself. Seriously, I was supposed to meet some friends for coffee the other day and not only was I late, I was at the wrong location. I seem to do it to myself all the time. I apologize in advance if it happens to you next. 😉
I walked into the salon and the owner greeted me at the door and confirmed our appointment. He then instructed me to “pick a color”. When I looked at the wall, I was in awe of the all the different colors of nail polish in front of me. The sun was shining through the window and warming me from behind. I quickly noticed how an out of place bottle of bright, red nail polish and been placed right in the middle of the blues and greens. All the other polish was in order by the color and shade. Rows of yellows, pinks, and oranges above. Reds, wines, and darks below. I love red. Bright, bold, confident, Valentine Red. It makes me smile. It makes me feel alive. It is love. It is life. I say a quick prayer and thank God for another sign that I moving my life in the right direction. He knew I would now notice and appreciate the contrast of the colors, where before, I would have looked right passed them and missed the magic.
My friend showed up and as she rushed in and into my arms, it was like we had never missed a day. As we traded stories, we realized our lives are more alike that we thought. We are both givers and let me tell you, we are really good at giving! We talked about making more time for those who make time for us. At the end of our date, we promised to keep better in touch and make more effort to get together. I really think we will. We have similar hearts and similar goals for life. Plus, we are both super fun girls when we get a chance to let our hair down! Cheers, my beautiful friend! Thank you for reminding me that sometimes we give so much to other people, we forget to save some of the salvation for ourselves.
I’ve lived in Oregon now for exactly 19 years and 10 days… and never have I experienced this kind of snow! I can promise you there will be no spinning in circles or snow angels for me. I’m happy to just enjoy from inside today. It’s amazing. Every time I look outside, it’s different. The lighting has changed, what’s visible has changed, whether it’s snowing or not. I have taken quite a few pictures to be able to compare them later. I figure I’ll go through and take my time editing them. Looks like I could be stuck on this couch for awhile!
Here’s a few of my favorites so far:
Below are some of the journal entries that I sent to my psychiatrist about a month ago. I know I promised that this blog would be about 2017, not 2016, but I really felt like I needed to share them with you all and her mom said it would be ok. That maybe talking about it would help us all heal. My hope is that by reading these emails, Haley’s story will make more sense to you, once I can find the strength to finally finish it.
Written Thursday, December 15, 2016
She will die tonight. Her angel mother and her heartbroken fiancé are with her in her hospital room in San Francisco. There are tubes and tape and machines beeping everywhere. Everything in the room is sterile white, even her skin. I picture her laying there, with her beautiful, flowing strawberry blonde hair, angel kissed cheeks, and emerald green toes. She looks more like a mermaid in this moment than ever before. She is at peace. Her big brothers are in the air, rushing to get there before her life is over. Always there by her side, even in death. I’m sure that her father is in Heaven watching over them all, thanking God that he went first. Knowing that he could not have survived in this world without her. How do I look my boys in the eyes and give them news that will change their lives forever? They were their aunties world. Dylan took the bus home to her almost every day. She and Mel are only 6 years apart in age, so they are more brother and sister, than auntie and nephew. I guess in that way, we are both losing our sister tonight. My little, his big. I’ve never dealt with something like this. Well, something so close to home. This feels like too big a test for where I’m at. In this moment, I do not want to be mindful. In this moment I want to curl up in a ball and check back out of life.
Tonight my little sister, Haley, will die. How do you die at 25?
Written Sunday, December, 18, 2016
She is gone. No more wondering. No more waiting. She is gone. My guard is back up. I don’t think I can feel this one. Again, I do not want to be mindful of this moment. This one could break me.
Yes, we’ve all seen the meme posted on Facebook: “Cousins are awesome. Well, mine are. I can’t speak for yours.” I know I for one have posted, re-posted, and posted it again, because I really mean it! I’ve also had to post, repost, and post again, because any time a new cousin joins social media, I feel like they also need to feel the love. It also doesn’t help, that I have 26 first cousins. Yes, you read that right: 26. My maternal grandmother is still alive and mostly healthy and has not only grandchildren, but great-grandchildren AND great-great grandchildren. In total, I think there are 56 of us. Believe me, I know, it’s a lot to take in. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “That is crazy! I have ___ (that I haven’t seen in years) and that’s counting both sides!” Well, if you think that’s crazy, consider this: we were all (minus 3 in CO) raised within an hour of each other. That means most of the time we all spent the holidays, birthdays, etc together. All at one house. Is your head spinning yet?? Haha! You also may have noticed that I never mention a ‘grandpa’, but that’s because I didn’t have one. Both of my grandma’s were strong, kind, loving and SINGLE mothers. They have both played major roles in my life and deserve their own stories, which I promise, I will eventually write. Today however, I’ve decided to dedicate this entry to “The Original 26”.
While some might think growing up with 26 cousins would be overwhelming, I wouldn’t want it any other way. The ages of us all span from apx 45-15 years old, so most of us have some cousins that we are closer to than others. In 1981, there were actually 5 of us born within 4 months of each other. When we graduated high school, we had a picture taken of all of us that matches the same one our parents took of us 18 years earlier. I come from a small town south of Albuquerque, where people only seem to know you as “so and so’s” daughter, niece, etc. Very seldom do they remember your given name. Growing up, I was always known as “J’s baby cousin”. He’s only 5 days older than me, but he always acted like it was 5 years. Not that I minded though… he always watched out for me and had the cutest cowboy friends.
If you ask any of the cousins, they will tell you I was a total tomboy growing up. I chased the girls with dead crawdads from the ditch, I rode (more like held on for dear life) stinky sheep in the corrals, made forts with the bales of dry alfalfa. Funny, even as I type the word alfalfa, I take a deep breath and hold it in for a few seconds. To me, it is still one of the most comforting smells around. It’s hard to explain, but to me it smells simply like earth… a mixtureof dirt, water, oxygen and sunshine. It’s as organic as it gets and we had the privledge of building forts, mazes, classrooms, jails, and bakeries with it all summer long.
As we’ve gotten older, it’s true that most of us are not as close as we once were. Most of us have kids, most all of us have or have had a spouse or partner. We have school, careers and in laws to consider. We will text once in awhile, Snapchat if we’re lucky and like each others posts on FB, if your still into that.
You get us all together, it’s like we’re still little kids getting to see our best cousins! Everyone tells stories and the laughter is contagious. We talk about the time “Sunshine” got home and chased cows until 1am after drinking margaritas with me since 1pm. I couldn’t help, because I was at my other aunties, sound asleep…. in a Lightning McQueen car bed. Not my proudest moment, but it makes for a good cousin story. Or the time we were “attacked by a huge pack of dogs”, only to realize (after about half of a mile “running for our lives”) that the only dog that actually got through the rusty chainlink fence was a single mutt chihuahua. We remince about the 3 cousins we’ve lost much too young and wonder where they would be today. I remind Amanda about her always perfectly white Keds… when she was mad, she would cross her arms, tap her right toe and give you the death stare until you gave in. It used to drive me insane, but now it’s one of my very favorite memories. She has 2 baby girls now…. I cannot wait to buy them their 1st pairs!! 💕
Then finally, without fail, someone will bring up my 2nd grade school picture. Somehow that one still takes the cake. Hey, I was only 8 years old!! Who allowed me to get that ugly perm anyway?! I’m actually laughing out loud as I think about it. Cousins, our time together is always too short, but in those rare moments when we are all together, it’s impossible not to feel blessed, loved, supported and remembered. Always remember… cousins are not just cousins. We are built in best friends for life.
“Alek (7), if you let me have that, I’ll be your best friend… Dilly (7), I’m already your cousin, so that means you’ll always be my best friend.”
It’s snowing… ugh, I hate the cold. My body hurts, my jaw hurts from clenching my teeth, my head hurts from listening to myself bitch about how much I hate the cold. Yet, here I am standing and smiling at the window, watching the snow fall. I’m mesmerized by the way the flakes shift and shape with the wind. The patterns of the gusts are indescribable and are gone in literally the blink of an eye. I realize that in this moment, I am being ‘mindful’. I wasn’t even “trying” to be! I feel like I should celebrate! I throw on my smelly Ugg boots (yes, every girl has them) and burst out onto the patio wearing nothing besides yoga pants and an oversized jersey tee. My whole body freezes up… even my mind. My last thought is “WTF am I doing?! I AM NOT AN OREGONIAN!” The freezing temperature of the air literally takes my breath away. It takes a moment to adjust. However, instead of hunkering down in the cold as I would usually do, slowly I open my arms wide and start to take deep breaths. They are the deepest, cleanest breaths I’ve had in days. It’s dry, cold air. It reminds me of home sweet home New Mexico and start to warm from the inside. I feel like a child the way my body is tingling and rushing with sheer joy. It sounds cheesy I think to myself, but WTH, here I go… I turn my palms and face up to the sky and start to turn in circles. I spin around and around in circles, until I get dizzy. I have to admit, it took my body a moment to realize that these are actually the good kind of spins… No need to crawl to the bathroom or sleep with a trash can by the bed. Whew… ok, yes, this is actually fun! You know, I think if I would have had more clothes on, I probably would have laid down on the concrete and made snow angels! Everything in me is humming with exhilaration at the way my emotions and Mother Nature are coming together for a full body experience. When I finally stop and catch my breath, I’m laughing out loud, wondering what the neighbors must be thinking if they can see me. Oh well, I hope if they do see me in this moment, that instead of crazy (or drunk), they see joy, peace, happiness and healing.
2016 was a rough year, in more ways than I thought possible at the age of 35. It was my first year as an “empty nester”. Yes, I know I don’t look old enough to have a child in college… but, I promise you, I was there and I’ve got the stretch marks and a Columbia College Chicago sweatshirt to prove it! It was my first year as a mother with 2 teenage boys. Speaking of teenagers, 2016 was also the first time since I was 18 that I had to move back home, in order for my mom to take care of me. It was a year of professional transition (resigned my accounting position of 12 years to become a stay at home mom) and unimaginable heartbreak (Haley). However, as in every other year, 2016 offered me an abundance of memories that will last a lifetime. I would concede that it was in fact, “the most memorable year of my life.” And honestly, I don’t remember most of it. Between constant anxiety attacks, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and meds that would make most drug dealers jealous, I lost all sight of myself. So, while 2016 is full of juicy, drama filled material, this is the story of 2017. My “comeback year”.
An update for those of you who may or who probably do not know what really happened…
- I had a nervous breakdown. A true Goldie Hawn, having to be thrown in the cold water barrel by Kurt Russell in Overboard, kind of breakdown.
- Me (sobbing) to my Dr. in April: “I just don’t understand it… gasp, gasp, gasp… I used to have it all together. I used to work insane hours at a high level job that I was good at and respected for, I raised 2 amazing boys as a single WORKING mother (all while maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship with their dad), paid all my own bills, exercised, traveled and looked good while I did it! What happened to me?!” My doctor: “Ummmm… Well, that’s probably why you’re here talking with me and having a nervous breakdown at the age of 35.” Me: “Oh ya (sniffle, sniffle), well I guess that kind of makes sense.”
- I don’t remember most of that story, so it would be hard to retell.
- I don’t want to.
- In September, I found a compassionate, empathic, brilliant psychologist who is helping me put me back together. Within our work, he has introduced me to the very trendy term and idea that is Mindfulness.
- Have you heard of it? Are you already living it? If not, here is Wikipedia’s take on it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness
- I started writing to my psych as a kind of therapy. My mind was constantly spinning and it felt like writing was the only thing that could keep me focused. It was also very important to me that my Dr. know the real me, not just the broken shell of a person that was sitting in front of him multiple times a week.
- Basically, I wanted him to know me that way most of you do. It’s been a few months now and I’m finally at a point where I am ready to open myself (back) up and thought this was easier way to stay connected with everyone at once.
Anyhow, I do hope you enjoy my writing and although I welcome your honest feedback, please keep in mind that this is MY STORY. It won’t be perfect, but as I’m slowly learning, neither am I.