Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grateful 2012

And so another Thanksgiving Day has arrived and I once again have looked forward to accounting the things I am most thankful for this year, here in my blog.

I could not even begin to count my blessings without first and foremost feeling the breathlessness I can encounter when I truly contemplate my partner in life. Joe, we have a wonderful marriage and a beautiful life together. You said yesterday you have wondered at times if God didn't pull us together to support one another through the very intense challenges we would encounter in our lives and I felt a warmth when you said it. I have always been grateful to you and known I would not be the person I am now if there had never been you. This year, I am thankful that I have been able to give even a little bit of that back to you. We have it all. You loved me through loss, through grief and through pain and now have loved me through achievement, through material gain and through my bafflement as life swirls and changes in positive ways around me. Of all people on earth, perhaps only you know the depth of my soul and I am thankful for that in a way that is indescribable. I get to witness your life. You get to witness mine. That is a blessing I do not deserve and am humbled to have.

I give thanks to you, Nick, my wonderful fiery haired man-child. You have such a zest for life. Lately, as I watch you enjoying this final year of high school, I am struck with the intensity that you experience the world. When you are joyful, it fairly crackles off you and I cannot resist letting that fill me up. I am so thankful you are finding things to feel good about in life. You have had to endure so much at such a young age. Every parent wants to believe their child is growing into someone they are proud of. My pride is you is indescribable. Part of me wants to hold you right here, in this phase. Part of me cannot wait to see where you are headed to. You are a wonderful son and I am so thankful you are mine.

Alex, you continue to amaze me with all you are doing in your world. You have layers upon layers of emotion, experiences, desires and goals. Seeing you strive to learn and grow, witnessing the hugeness of your heart and feeling your love for your friends, your family, your cat and your God gives peace and hope. I love the way we talk together, how you linger at the dinner table and I am grateful every time I ask you for help on something that you are able, willing and pleasant about the tasks being tackled. The whole world lies before you, waiting for your mark. I am so, so thankful I get to be your mother and that we have the great relationship we do.

Stewart, I give thanks for you today. You have given our sons a wonderful example of strength through hardship and fatherly love. I am thankful you are pursuing opportunities to make your world better and thankful you let me support you through that. You were not shy about supporting me as I struggled through nursing school and as I enjoy my new career. I am thrilled to see you growing and changing, using what we have gone through to build a better life.

Mom, I am thankful for your unwavering love, the laughter that we share and the time we get to spend together. I cannot imagine what I would do without you and I treasure relating to you as a grown-up. You are beautiful, inside and out.

Zumba girls, especially Angela, Teresa, Stephanie and Kim - you surprised me this year. I have never thought much of myself, my beauty, my body or my health and based on my own  body issues I often have been guilty of assuming those who have a healthier lifestyle would have no wish to know me or help me. How wrong I have been. You have pushed me hard, let me go and welcomed me back. You have reached out, not just for fitness reasons, but because you wanted to be friends. I have learned a lot from you this year and not all of it relating to how to make a better butt. I am thankful for you! For the hugs that welcome me back, for the words of support, for your continued good example and most of all, for feeling like I am important to you. You made me feel better about who I am, right now, in this moment.

Heather, Nessa, Felicia and Aislin, you are bright gifts in my life. I don't see as much of you as I want, but when I think of who would be there if my world fell apart again as it did six years ago, my thoughts immediately fly to you. Of all the friends I have, you have seen me the most naked, body and soul. I am thankful that each time life gets in the way, we find our ways back together and it is as if no time has gone by at all. You make me happy down into my heart and secure in an insecure world.

My work colleagues, you are just plain awesome. I have been a jumpy, insecure, passionate, eager new graduate. You have taken my nerves and settled them, my questions and answered them, my passions and focused them. You demonstrate to me every day that I am part of an elite, wonderful group and that makes me feel proud of where I am at in my career. You make me laugh both at the world and at myself. You are a quiet presence when the solemnity of what we do shows a dark face to our shift. I value you in a way I have never gotten to value co-workers before. Thank you for holding me up as I flounder and flap and fly into nursing, for making me feel welcomed to the team and for giving so much of yourself. I admire you, every day, all the time.

I don't know how to say how thankful I am for my job as a nurse. I love my patients and they give me way way way more than I give to them. I am humbled to get to do what I do. Cranky old men crack me up with their sarcasm, cranky old women quiet me with bits of wisdom. The mentally ill, the developmentally challenged, the young who didn't expect to be sick, the middle aged humbled by accidents or illness, the families wrestling with shifting family dynamics and difficult decisions - it just doesn't get more soul-naked than that. I am so privileged to be someone able to help, even if just by being a presence they can feel faith in. I love what I do. I LOVE what I do. I am thankful to my core for that.

And finally, I give thanks for all the things around me every day. I have a life of plenty and recognize at any given moment the things I enjoy, take for granted and count on could change. From property to people, nothing is static and everything changes. This year has been a good one for me. I thank God for this life. I thank God for the ability to heal, to learn, to grow. I thank God for Joseph, my dad, my grandparents. I thank God for stepkids and their spouses who have let me into their hearts. I am a lucky, lucky woman.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I am remembering you today. I am baking apple pies and I know you would have wanted to help. I am remembering coming home from your bone marrow transplant and celebrating Thanksgiving with you, in that blissful in-between when we still had some hope of your recovery, not just from the transplant but from the cancer and that ordeal as a whole. We still had hope for your life. It was a precious time, gilded and golden now in my memory. Pictures taken in my mind drift in hazy softness around my consciousness and I have you here, with me.

I was driving around doing some errands earlier today and contemplating some of the grief information that has come to me recently. I still remain pretty stuck I'm afraid. I am scared to let go of the sharpness of my missing you. I am scared to let you drift to a background thing. Questions and anxieties that only another grieving person might understand have prevented me from wholly embracing this life without you. I still miss you acutely. I still feel shock that it approaches six years since we said goodbye and let you go. And graduating from nursing school released a stop-gap that I had blanketed over the whole "moving on" thing without me even realizing it.

I tried out a new sensation today and it was so, so brief...but for one little second, I was able to feel what it might be like to remember you without this intense, burning sorrow. Without this dark, private, quiet little room that I keep hidden away, where I retreat to in furtive steps in between the other punctuation points of life. What if I let that little room go and just remembered you with joy? What would that mean?

I don't know the answer to it. I am scared to try it and not entirely sure why. I treasure so much this only relationship I have left with you, but I recognize it is not healthy nor good for me. I cannot fathom "letting you go".

So as I think of you today and remember you coming home for the last time, I am trying out what it feels like to just feel the happiness of those times and not the modifier of my sadness that we won't see you at the table yet again this year. I carry you in my pocket. I carry you in my heart.

Happy Thanksgiving Joe-Gi. I am thankful I got to be Mom, both to you and to your brothers.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

If I Had a Hammer

Someone once asked me "What if Joseph had chosen this life?"

Powerful question, that one. It definitely quiets my heart to think of it. Stops it for a moment, actually. Because here's the thing. Most of the time when I think of Joseph, it is soft. I don't touch it too firmly because let's face it - the lives we live don't allow for a person to grieve day by day. It is a private moment, nook-and-cranny kind of thing most of the time. But every now and then, when I am not at my emotional strongest, when something in life is making me feel weak and like a failure, my thoughts of Joseph take a dark turn. And when I pose the question "But what if he chose this? What if he chose you, Sheri?" I have to pause in that darkness. It changes things. It brings some light.

Why is it that I remember such great detail about the things I did wrong in raising him?  The raised voice, the spanking that should not have been, the refusal for one more story (or even just one story), the harsh words, the internal irritation, the moments of bafflement, confusion and misguidedness that comes with being a parent. And I bring myself to wonder "Was he even happy?"..."Did he know I loved him?"....."Did I break his heart?"  These musing lead me to a dark place. Or rather, deeper into a dark place, because I am beginning now to notice how these thoughts always come when I am already down on myself. It is as if it is not enough to chastise myself for a lack of exercise or a few too many potato chips or for being tired at the end of my shift. I have to get to that nitty gritty raw spot and douse it with salt. I am not very nice to me. I kick me when I am down. Often.

Being out of school has moved life around a lot and made room for a lot of grieving that I had unknowingly packed away when I started that journey. I really stink at allowing myself to be sad. I judge myself harshly for it. I don't like how vulnerable it makes me and I don't like how debilitating it is. I fill in the blanks for what everyone else is thinking and it is never something understanding or kind or gentle. There was a quote on a TV show Joe and I were watching last night in which one of the characters said "Grief is nothing but extended self pity". And my stomach lurched, because I know people out there really think that and frankly it is what I default assume most people are thinking. I isolate myself, efficiently and thoroughly. It is hurtful to me, to those who love me most and to my grief process. Why am I so mean to myself? I wish I knew the answer. But more importantly (because I am not sure the why would matter as much as this) I wish I knew how to stop. Whose voice is it in my head being so ugly? It isn't mine. I don't feel or talk that way, internally or externally, about other people. Just me. Why do I not believe in kindness in others? Why do I fret so much about making sure everyone else is not put out by me?

In any case, I am pushing myself these days, too hard apparently. As we speak I am on a heart monitor at home to measure out arrhythmias I have been having over the past two to three weeks. The doctor says stress and fatigue most likely, but we have enough family history of heart problems (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to be specific) that I get the full work up. They are bad enough to have kept me home from work today and to have kept me out of the gym despite a driving desire to get back on that horse and catch up with my friends. And I am irritated. Seriously seriously irritated. I have given up coffee. Soda. WINE. (WINE, people!!) I'm taking naps and taking it easy and trying to ignore my cluttered and messy house. My body is making me slow down and still my spirit doesn't want to. I don't know how to do this. To be dependent. To stop worrying what other people think of me. To take care of myself properly. To be kind to me. All I can think about is how I don't have time for this and how angry I am at my body for not acting right. When the truth is, I have pushed it to this limit. Working nights. Not sleeping enough. Not dealing with my stress effectively. But I can't seem to say that to myself with kindness and encouragement. Even that is something to beat on myself about. Who is this person? It is time I find the real me.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beautiful Dawn

Ahhh. A warm, giant mug of dark, rich coffee. A small slice of french bread, toasted, spread with "just enough" real butter melting in. Light tip-toeing over the horizon, filtering through the blue and green of our tree out front, bringing shadow to the living room just beyond my view from where I sit. Another day is rising, another tough birthday survived and lived to tell the tale, all things about me intact, sure and firm. I never thought I would get to this place. In the past, Joseph's birthday or any one of the other small reminders that he is no longer here just knocked me for a loop and the sorrow and anger that would well up inside me felt brutal and violent. I did so much better yesterday.

By better, I do not mean some kind of performance in which I met some kind of self set or society placed benchmark. I mean deep in my gut. I let myself feel my sorrow. Victory. Then I let myself verbally admit it to someone who loves me. Victory. Then I let him hold me. Victory. Then I let myself start to talk. And cry. And share the burden of my sorrow. Major victory.

It is so easy with deep sadness to fall into the habit of protecting it. I do it under the guise of not wanting to burden others. And others lean toward respecting that sorrow to the point that if I do not reach out, I am isolated completely. After all, they don't know what to say. They don't know what to do. And the last thing they want to do is hurt me further. And for some, they don't want to voluntarily wander in the quagmire of that deep, unending pain. They'll go there if you let them know you need them to perhaps. But never voluntarily. And then some just don't want to go there at all. And who can blame them? That place sucks. So I protect others from the helplessness and I protect myself from the embarassment that comes when I realize yet again I have an ache for which there is no soothe. It takes courage for me to share it to be honest. Because every time I pull the scab off I realize all over again this is never going to heal. And sometimes when I share inappropriately, as I often did when my grief was new and I was inexperienced with it, I am left feeling vacant and bleeding. It became safer, though not easier, to carry it alone and not reach out.

But I did it different yesterday and something really amazing happened. I got a memory back. As any grieving parent will tell you, our biggest fear in all the world is that we will forget. That we'll forget the special moments, the sound of their voice, the light of their smile. That their laughter will float away on the wind, never to be heard again, not even in our mind. That their smell and posture and habits will fade into the oblivion of time until it is as if they were never here at all. This is why it means so very much when someone shares a story about our child who died. Why hearing someone else speak their name can almost make us gasp, can cause literal chills and breathlessness, as if a heavy weight has landed hard on the middle of our chest. It is just so rare. We don't get more time with our kiddo, so reminders of the time they already had is like finding treasure. Pictures are the same way. Someone sharing a picture we have not seen before or not seen in a long time - it is a gift as precious as anything could ever be. I would take a new picture of Joseph or recover one lost over winning the lottery.

In letting my grief open up to Joe, I found myself reminiscing about the day Joseph was born. And there it was, in great, great detail, the day of his birth. Stored in my mind all this time. Sometimes it is really hard to let myself go back to when he was little or to his babyhood. I feel like the closest I have to who he would be now is around the time of his illness and death. His babyhood often is something I don't let myself indulge in. In a way, it hurts worse. With all those memories comes the memory of emotion - the sense of hope babies just bring along with them. I remember the prayers I murmured over him, the guidance I asked God for in parenting him. All those things. Its hard. Its painful. But remembering brought back the absolute awe and joy of his arrival into my life.

I labored a long time - 17 hours from the time my water broke to the time Joseph actually was born. The epidural wore off around hour 10 and being a military hospital, I didn't get another one. Those last seven hours were terrifying and excruciating. It was work - I got so sweaty I could not believe it. I thought it would never end and I reached a sort of matter-of-fact acceptance for the pain and fell asleep between contractions. But when it was time to push, I pushed like a champ. Baby arms and legs spread open wide as he burst into the world, nearly causing the doctor to drop him. He was premature and we stayed in recovery far too long. It took another 10 hours for us to move to the postpartum unit and get our own room. We were greeted there by a wonderful, grizzled old nurse who got Joseph and I settled in. I asked for a shower and she efficiently bundled Joseph up like a little burrito, slung him over her shoulder and told me he would be fine - that she'd keep him with her while I showered. And I was relieved. I automatically trusted her competence, her no-nonsense approach and the way Joseph didn't even wake up as she handled him with expert hands. This was a woman who'd seen a lot of babies, on whose shoulders many had rested. I was safe to shower without my new baby suffering for it. And I did. Oh my goodness - that was the best freaking shower of my LIFE. I don't think I have ever had one since that was as good as that shower was. That was the Crack of all showers.

After I was done, the nurse brought Joseph back in, patting him firmly. I settled into bed and she brought him forward to give him to me. She paused, looking at his tiny, scrunchy sleeping face and proclaimed matter-of-factly, "This is going to be a good one." She then placed him in my arms and left us to get to know one another. Stewart had gone home to change, shower and rest and I was alone with my new baby for the very first time. I put him to breast and marveled as he nursed for the first time. I stretched out his fingers, fondled his little toes, ran my hand across that precious little head with its soft dusting of hair and felt the deep weight of a terrifying, miraculous love.

This memory makes me cry. It is everything sweet and wonderful that is possible in this life. And it is mine. Joseph isn't here anymore but we were together in that memory. I suppose somewhere now he can "remember" it too. I love thinking he is able now to know what I felt the day he was born. But more than anything I love that I can go back to that moment any time I am quiet, uninterrupted and ready. That will never, ever leave me.

Happy birthday my Joseph. You made me a mother. Your birthday gave me far more than any gift I ever was able to give you on your subsequent birthdays. I celebrate that we had that day together and all the others that followed. I celebrate the wonder of you.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

He Died Before This

I have spent so much time when I think about Joseph mourning all the things he didn't get to do and it goes without saying that those have been some pretty dark moments and hopeless, bottomless thoughts. It has made me near to crazy wondering what he might have been when he grew up. To not have gotten to see him graduate high school or college. Or even middle school. To not have known what he would look like now on the breath of 19.

His brothers have continued to grow and change and raising them is one of the most joyful and yet difficult things I have ever had to do.They are growing up and growing away. Every passing day they seem more bonded with their father, less interested in me; at times less considerate than I feel I have raised them to be. Each of these little moments I am dismayed to find strike a chink into my carefully laid out plans of being the kind of mom that lets go, that gives launch, that smiles into the sun as they fly. The thing I didn't count on was how clumsy it would be, for all of us. The need to reinforce manners and the resentment when I do so. The reminders to keep the cell phone on when out at the mall (after all, that is what we have provided it for Son, right? RIGHT?!") and that it is not okay to answer every blessed text message recieved except the one that comes from Mom. The arrival of the occasional bout of surliness, unkindness or indifference. When did saying "I love you" become something that hangs in the air awkwardly between us? When did the desire for a bedtime routine fade away? I feel bereft to realize it passed by almost without me noticing, drifting off in a whisper that faded so subtly that the silence left had been there quite a while before it became loud enough for me to hear. One day I realized all the lights were off upstairs and nobody even said good night. When did the courtesies they took such pride in extending me become something difficult to remember? People assure me it is normal and temporary, but on my side it feels anything but. And I hate...truly HATE.... how I sound in typing this out and how I feel struggling with it inside. I wasn't supposed to be that mom. I had a hard time parenting small children and looked forward to their becoming rational beings with great anticipation. I've enjoyed them as they have gotten older. I have loved hearing their thoughts and concerns about the world and looked forward to finding out who they are going to be. It never occurred to me there was any chance who they are going to be might be someone who has no use for their mom. And frankly it never occurred to me that if they did drift away that I would be the kind of mother who would cling, shed tears and nurse a wounded heart. It isn't like me, or at least not the me I thought I knew. So much of my world right now doesn't feel like the me I thought I knew.

I wonder if I am normal. If I am feeling this too acutely to be healthy. I find myself re-experiencing the intense feelings of loss for Joseph and once again with nothing sensible to pray for other than peace and acceptance and a life full enough on my own to make this transition. Nick and Alex are going to grow up and leave, to pursue their lives and their dreams. It is what I always wanted for them, what every parent wants. And I knew reaching that point can be a long, painful, awkward process with a lot of pitfalls. How vain of me to assume I would float over all that in any sense, both because of what we have been through together and because of what I assumed my parenting style would be. Because I assumed I have already suffered the ultimate loss, so their leaving can only be made softer by it. Ha! Joke's on me. If cancer parents have PTSD, having the two of them mature past what I can provide them touches on all my hot spots. I think the saddest part is that Joseph has now become a way to comfort myself. I never had to watch him grow apart or lose his regard for me. He'll always be the boy on the brink of manhood who was young enough to still need his Mom. Few fights. Few unpleasantries. Not much stubborn pulling away. No chance to disregard the rules or say things he would forget the next day but would sting me for a long time to come. I hate being so easily wounded, so raw and touchy and bruised. I hate that I am not ready for this despite a lifetime of preparing for it. And I hate that I feel like it caught me so off guard. Guess it is a good thing I got a cat.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Long Night

Part of my new life as an RN involves learning somehow to become a night person. As the granddaughter of farmers, naps were right up there on the top of the list of self indulgent sins, so this is going to take some adjusting. I am practicing tonight staying up as late as I can. Believe me, if it is 9:30 PM and I am holding still, I am starting to fall asleep. And usually I am up somewhere between 5 adn 6:30 AM on a regular basis. My entire life has to be reversed. 

I find it ironic that as I am finding things to do (and avoiding the last of the dinner dishes still on the counter), that the movie My Sister's Keeper is on cable. I just happened to be reading the book the day we learned Joseph had relapsed. The movie has been out a long time and I have wanted to see it, but it just has never seemed the right time. I knew I'd cry a lot and knew it would hit close to home. It can be hard to know if I want to experience that in the company of others or all by myself. I guess Fate decided for me. It is on now, the first night I am up alone. So I let my tears fall all on their own, by myself and I am okay with it. It centers me and draws the world down to the lowest common denominator. I suppose that is a gift Joseph keeps giving me. I cannot think of him without being brought into deep clarity on what matters and what does not. And there are times that nothing keeps me awake more than the intense knowledge of those things.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blinding Clarity

"They say that time in heaven is compared to 'the blink of an eye'
for us on this earth. Sometimes it helps me to think of my child
running ahead of me through a beautiful field of wildflowers and
butterflies; so happy and completely caught up in what he is
doing that when he looks behind him, I'll already be there."
~Author Unknown

And just that fast winter's grasp has slipped and let go. The days are balmy now and full of energy, brightness, symphonies of life and hope. I love this time of year, when the gray turns to green so vivid that it almost seems to glow, leaves shimmering in the sunlight as if to dance for the glory of God. I stretch my skin into the sun, uncovering arms and legs, neck and face...the relief of that warmth upon me making me realize I'd been cold for far too long, covered up and huddled down. I stretch toward the sky, at times smiling with all the strength I have, beaming my own light to Heaven as best that I can.

It is the continued paradox of this journey without Joseph. My days are full, stressed, almost frantic at times, yet somehow his memory comes to me in the spaces in between and I cradle my heart around them like a palm shields the flame of a candle. Nothing of note during his illness ever happened at this time of year and so many of my grief attacks seem to coincide with pertinent anniversaries. This time of year it seems simply to be linked to the new life bursting forth around me, the arrival of Easter, the promises of God, the freshness and youth of every chick and rabbit, each blade of grass, each bud on the limb. So lovely, so hopeful. Everything dies and everything renews. God is a cyclical entity and when I find my mind filled with doubt, I need only recall this and sense the (hopefully) patient smile or even loving exasperation as I wriggle in my fearfulness and faithlessness until I reach the point of logic that tells me..if all these lovely things, in their infinite simplistic complexity, come anew in each 12 month earthly span, why would the souls of humankind be any different in the realm of His creation? Even if we were somehow inflated and mistaken about humans being the greatest creation in God's own reflection, are we not at least as wonderous as these springtime beauties? And all I have to do is look at the children I have been given and know...yes. We are.

The newness of the earth makes me remember him. He was all springtime and freshness. He was, as all children are and particularly teenagers, full of life, wonder, miracle, expansion. Alive with promise and energy, not yet dulled by periods of spiritual drought or the winds of hard living. Thinking of him is to remember all good things that have ever happened to me and to know good things await me still, both in this lifetime and in whatever is coming after it. There is hope within this aching and faith my trembling hands do not deserve to hold. But that is the point...none of us really deserve it and still it is granted to us.

Somewhere, beyond here, he exists...elemental. Spiritual. Energistic. All the beauty he is cannot be created and cannot be destroyed. It can be dormant, as I have been dormant. It can be transplanted as I have been transplanted. It can be nurtured back to life as I am being now, this painful and confusing process of growing into who I am going to be on this earth without him. Joseph's life changed my pathway, a boulder planted squarely in the stream of my lifeforce, redirecting completely who I was becoming and who I am going to be. I could not be who I am had he not been who he is. He did not sacrifice himself for me and I loathe any thought that says what he suffered had to happen in order for me to be this person instead of that one. It is a guilt I will carry forever. Did this have to happen...for ME to happen? And if do I not hate myself for that? And yet...if it had to it not good that I spent the first five years doing as much as I knew how to embody the goodness that was Joseph into who I am going to be going forward and that I have utilized that goodness to strive for a joyful, grateful life? I try. I try for both.

And so the spring of the earth brings his essence to me in vivid colors, textures, scents and detailed thoughts. I do not know if I am still his mother or merely now a spiritual contemporary. All I know is I believe. I believe in him, in the ethereal essence of his mystical being and that I yearn for connection with who we were together and who we each are now. I am alive with sorrow, with need, with yearning....with hope and with gratitude, with servitude and reluctant acceptance. I cannot understand what happened. I cannot alter the tides or constellations. And these things make me cry. I cry for my lack of understanding, for my sorrow for not just his suffering but all of ours, for the goodbyes that await yet in the future and for the years that feel and have felt so very long to my immature soul. I cry not so much for what his death took from me, but perhaps from the change that wreckage forced upon me. Maybe even for all it gave me. Humility bears blunt force when brought upon by a tragedy of this magnitude. I am better now than I was then. I do not deserve to be better, yet what else could I do when he gave up so much? I want to be the best person I can be, not globally, not famously, but with smallness. With intimacy. I do not want to change great masses. I feel driven to be meaningful to a hundred lives person to person rather than to millions vaguely. I feel the voice of God in the smallness. And that is a voice I desperately need to hear, faithless and fearful as I remain.

I don't understand why spring comes to me and not him. I don't understand why it took his life to create my own. I don't understand why him and not me. Thinking about these things make me feel powerless, inept, damned and bereft.

But I do understand what feels right, what feels honorable, what feels like a link to Joseph's presence inside me and now a link to a person, a Sheri, I didn't know was in there. And when I tune with that, I feel tearful and humble, empowered and quiet, peacefully motivated. I have maybe 40 years left to do this. A blink of the eye in the time of Heaven. And a life that then stretched long and lonely out front comes to be short and inadequate. It is spring already. I stretch into my life, hands extended toward the sun, tearful with the brightness, blinded by the clarity.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


This new year has come with an intense push on my part to better my physical condition. I have jumped up and down 40 pounds as if I were getting paid to run back and forth and somewhere near that amount of gain in the last weeks of nursing school the jump up stayed up. With starting the new career I felt it an ideal time to simply start a new way of living - one that includes regular doses of vegetables and fruit, one that includes both cardiovascular conditioning and strength training. And one that includes opening myself up to new friendships. I have been fairly consistent in this goal, though admit to struggling with the lack of perceptible change in my physique given how much I have been doing. I track everything I eat on I attend cardio at least four times a week, strength training at least three. I am overweight and over 40 and thus my body hurts. A lot. Most of the time. So doing stuff like this and not seeing the results I am craving as quickly as I would like to see them is frustrating to say the least. Yet with each "down" episode of frustration I rally and dig in my heels for still more effort. It is the tactic of "if I beat it hard enough it will yield to my desires" (referring to my out-of-shape body).

In the last 48 hours I have gone to the gym and lifted weights with Joe, then did a several mile hike at the local nature reserve, finished that day off with an hour of Zumba and 22 Burpees, then awoke this morning for a half hour of Pilates and another hour of Zumba followed by some playful relay races in which my portion was to army crawl from one end of the studio to the other. Not pretty in more ways that one. I am physically exhausted.

I am just not in a good place lately. I do not feel balanced and am having to work very hard to remind myself of my blessings. The new job is going to take time. Lots of time from what I am told. So is the physical fitness/weight loss/strength thing I have going on. I am sliding very swiftly into thoughts of Joseph, into flashbacks of the year and a half of his illness. I am mourning, deeply, tearfully, all over the place. I am not sure why now or what is triggering me so much. I again come back to the theory that I finally have a bit of time for it - something I purposefully avoided after he died. Grief hurts. And it is a pain without respite. Once it takes hold there is very little you can do to alleviate the pain other than lay down, pray to God you fall asleep and pray even harder that when you wake up something will have interrupted the pattern enough to reset the bar and try again. The further away from Joseph's death I get, the less I feel entitled to these little spells...these "grief attacks". Yet they are near me and with me, as of late almost constantly. I am dissolving into tears around corners from people, in the car, in bed at night after the lights are off, in the hurry from here to there when I can keep my head low and my face turned away. Sometimes, like tonight, I am desperate for some relief from the isolation and emptiness. It makes the world seem so dark; my place in the world hopelessly small; my intentions woefully inept. There is just this tinge of sorrow all around me, some of it Joseph, some of it other things, all of it things I can't do anything about it. When I step back and look at my life and what I am doing objectively, I see someone who has every reason in the world to feel optimistic about the future. And I do. I'm just so sad within that optimism once in a while and today has been one of those days. I just miss him. I think my physical exhaustion makes it more difficult to control and contain the emotional. Someone pass the Kleenex. I am missing my oldest baby boy.

Someone told me in the past week that if she were to become ill, she'd want me to be her nurse. I love touching that sentiment in my mind, replaying it when I feel low. I doubt the person who said it had any idea it would mean so much to me. But it does. What a great compliment to recieve.  A burst of energy, strength and determination into my day.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What God Has Promised

I am up early, as is usual for me, and reading here, contemplating life. I really expected to go to sleep last night and then to awaken less melancholy, less contemplative. That didn't happen and begins to concern me a little bit. It isn't like me to stay in a "down" state for very long, but this one has been lingering for about five days now. I have been sipping my coffee, reading, listening to music, attempting to puzzle it out.

Sometimes it helps me to go back and read what I have blogged. This has been my healing place, my therapy -the publically private place where I spill my thoughts and internal struggles in a world that leaves little room for extended grief, and it has been a healthy endeavor for me. This morning I was reading back over December's entries. This one in particular:

The music still brings the tears to me, fresh and raw, and I still love what I wrote there. There are times when I write that I feel almost as if I have gone into a trance, and when I read it later I am filled with satisfaction for having gotten the emotions and thoughts down "just right". This is one of those entries. In it, I speak of a common theme in my thought process - the idea of life being a pathway. There are a lot of forests in my mental pathways, and as I think of Joseph's illness, often I think of a forest that has been devastated, burned to the ground, ashen, smoldering, uncomfortable. It smells bad. It reeks of loss. As I have imagined this pathway through my schooling, the path through the forest has gradually stopped smoking. Dust has settled. For a long way it was like that, just a burnt landscape. And in time, new growth began to appear. New trees. Birds. Ferns. Shelter. And in getting to graduation, I imagined a clearing, large boulders and a steep curve in the bend that I could not see around. I am still coming around that bend.

And what is remarkable to me about all of this is the clarity reading back over that blog post is bringing me. I have been wondering why I am so tearful. So mournful. So tense. And I realize...I am afraid. My familiar forest is behind me now. I am headed into new territory. I don't even know if it will be a forest anymore. It could be very different now. I am terrified. Because as horrifying and difficult as some of that forest was, it was familiar. And successfully negotiated. It was mine. I had found a peacefulness and deep knowledge of that forest and I felt that forest knew, understood and frequently rewarded me for my ability to navigate it without disruption.

Not so anymore - all is new. All is potential. What I have to realize, internalize and apparently force myself in frequent measures to contemplate is that this is a sacred pathway. I am supposed to be on it. I have been prepared all the way along it for what is coming up next even when it didn't feel like it, even when it was hard. I have to trust, perhaps for the first time ever, that I can handle what is coming, even if in the moment I feel inadequate. Being able to cope does not imply proficiency - it just implies capable. And capable doesn't mean no pain, no fear, no struggle. It just means having the capacity to learn and move onward to the next thing. Internalizing these thoughts calms me, gives me something to think about. The knot is still in my stomach, but it is like having survived my first dark night on this new path. I consciously seek out evidence of a new day and see silvery light on the horizon. (My metaphor is carrying me away here; I apologize!) I am right where I am supposed to be. If I don't trust myself, I need to trust Joseph and trust God. I am being called to rest in my faith, shaky though it may be. Faith in what I have been through and what I have learned. Faith in myself. Faith in other humans, who will be teaching me and helping me along. Faith in God and the purpose I am being called to. I do believe this is predestined. I do believe I have found what I am supposed to be doing. I do believe I will have moments of fear, but that I cannot be swallowed by it in this way. Allowing such feelings unchecked is to live within a lie. And I will not live in lies.

As I sit here and think these chaotic thoughts and attempt to capture them here, I have had a poem that I memorized in high school come back to me. I have not thought of it in years. I loved it then and it got me through some pretty awful times. Thank you to young Sheri for packing the words away so completely and accurately. They continue to soften me now. I have no idea if there is more to this little poem somewhere, but this is what I memorized and called up from time to time to think upon.

What God Has Promised

God has not promised
Skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways
All our lives through.
God has not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
But God has promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,
Unfailing sympathy
Undying love.

-Annie Flint

Strength for the day. I have that.
Rest for the labor. It is promised.
Light for the way. It is foretold.
Grace for the trials. I believe in this and seek to embody it as much as recieve it.
Help from above. I am learning to accept this help. I am learning humility.
Unfailing sympathy. My heart buckles under the depth of this thought.
Undying love. Manifested all through my life, starting with my loyal, gentle husband, my mother, my children, my family, my friends. I am provided tangible proof.

I will soften my thoughts today. I will practice being in a place of trust and hope. I will not fear my joy. I will not cave to anxiety. I will not conjecture what is coming next or could be. I already have been shown - I cannot know. I can only live.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow Dreams

I came home from work tonight and almost immediately went upstairs and prepared a bath for myself. This day was stressful, for reasons that don't matter too much now, I suppose. It is all over - the final exam for my critical care internship taken, sweated over, passed (barely) did nothing for my sense of self confidence. I feel like my radar is on hyperdrive, seeking almost frantically for any sign that this rug is going to pull out from under me. I know it is probably silly. I know there are good odds that I will go on to be successful. I have no reason to be doubting myself so much. Sometimes I think learning how to hold a dream come true is just as devastatingly difficult as dealing with the loss of one; or perhaps just after dealing with the loss of one....

So I slid my brain-weary self down into my bubbles and overly-hot bath water and just sat there. Our bathroom is on the second floor and the tub is settled beneath a large picture window. When I am in the bath I look out; some of my favorite times to be in there has been during large storms, both thunderstorms and snowstorms. Particularly I love to watch lightening shows or snow fall from the sky while I lay coccooned in a tiny ocean of silken water. I didn't have anything that interesting to stare at while I bathed tonight, but I imagined up a mighty snow and a mountain in the distance and lots and lots of trees. I meditated intently on the silence that comes with snowfall, the subtle sound fat flakes make as they land one atop the other, enmeshing the world in foamy white softness. The way all the microdetails come into focus as the macro nature of our modern day world is sealed away. Honestly I craved this. It became a one room cabin in my mind, not our suburban home; a fireplace dancing merrily across the room next to a bed with an old quilt or plaid spread on it. The scent of pine. The pile of books. The old standby of yearning that I come to when life has just gotten too hard. I dream up solitude, serenity, security. I could use all of those things right now. I am not sleeping very well. I think too much. I try too hard. I let myself run away with my thoughts too easily and am learning I am not very nice to me in my thoughts. That needs to change, though I hardly know when I am doing it and don't know much how to stop it. I have Tom Hanks living in my head, spittle flying as he hollers "Are you crying?! There's no crying in nursing!!!"

The hospital I work for has a generous allowance given for the scrubs we are required to wear. Nurses in this area always wear royal blue and the first day I put those on was very exciting. In between getting out of work today and picking the boys up from school I wandered into a local department store. It is interesting - people treat me differently. Doors were held. Smiles. I made a purchase and the salesman was not satisfied to merely hand me my bag over the countertop; he walked all the way around to hand it to me with a tiny bow and a smile into my eyes. At one time I would have assumed I was being flirted with, but I think I know better now (do these scrubs make my butt look big?). It was just an attempt to give excellent service to someone he deemed deserving of it. I admit, that felt pretty nice.

My spirit is just weary tonight I guess. I have not gotten to work out this week as much as I would normally do and I had three different exams in five days, all of which had to be passed with a minimum of 84%. I'm exhausted all the way around. I intend to sleep in tomorrow, at least as much as my hyperactive brain will let me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In the Mirror

Sadness, jealousy, competitiveness, fear....they all seem to go hand in hand. I dislike these things in myself. I don't enjoy feeling jealous. Jealousy is more about the bearer than the object and I am acutely aware of this when I see the accomplishments or imagine the lives of others and find myself somehow coming up short. It is a vindictive, ugly, destructive emotion and I feel shame on top of it any time it rears its ugly head. Competitiveness - healthy for some people, but not so much for me. I have yet to learn how to utilize it to its utmost, and usually this particular emotion spawns the previously mentioned one. I am best when I focus simply on myself and let everyone else focus on themselves....but.... Why is that so hard to do sometimes? If someone else is pretty, does that mean I am not? If someone else gets something they want, does that take away any right I have to something similar? Of course not. Some people use it to spur themselves forward. I seem to use it as a way to get stuck and then get really mad. I am working on it. Because right now all it is doing is tearing up my sense of self and making me look at parts of me that I prefer to think aren't really there. But apparently they are.  Maybe I need to be looking at it....

Sadness. So so much of it. I have carried it along bravely, even I know that. But I hate it. I hate carrying it. I hate feeling it. I hate the way it makes me feel like a burden to those I love. I hate the secretive nature of it. And I hate how it spins up into that fourth emotion - fear. Fear of further loss. Fear of failure. Fear of abandonment. Fear of forgetting. Fear of remembering. Fear of hurting people. Of inconveniencing people. Of being self important. Of being ill thought of. Sometimes I think I live far too much of my life prodded forward on the heels of it. And that makes me wonder how much of my life I have truly evaluated, if fear can be a major cause of motivation for me. How much do I really know myself if fear is something I walk so heavily with? My husband asked me this week when I am going to finally start trusting myself. I do not know the answer to that. I guess I am afraid to?

I am not myself tonight. My boys are growing up and I don't like it. I have never seen anything written about letting go of other children when one child has died, but I suspect I am not alone in my feelings of intense sorrow that can almost feel like anger/jealousy/fear as they start to fluff their feathers in preparation of flight. I never considered myself a clingy mother, but I am acting like one these days. Every grunt instead of cohesive words drives home to me that every molecule they are made of is pulling with irrevocable force toward a destiny in which my part has been already played, in which I become peripheral. I guess every parent probably deals with this to one extent or another. I didn't expect to. I think the shock of the emotions bothers me as much as the events leading to them. I never thought of myself as "that" mom. BZZT! Try again....thank you for playing.

I have started my new job. I passed NCLEX in typical Sheri fashion, with much angst and ado and paradoxical let down afterward when, having girded myself for intense battle, find it flit by almost as if it didn't happen. I have a badge with RN on it beside my name. I get a tickle in my stomach every time I see it. The Internship I have is classroom work for the first three weeks, so thus far it feels like I am kind of back in school, only getting paid for it. There are a few dreams come true in that statement, aren't there? I am taking much better care of myself. I log everything I eat on MyFitnessPal and have a bunch of new friends there, mostly members of the Zumba studio I have joined. We work out together and laugh a lot on Facebook. I am learning a lot from the new friends I am making, most of whom are living far healthier than I have been. I let them influence me. I feel better. I am moving a lot. I get to listen to loud music and dance like a maniac until sweat is flowing down my face. What's not to love?

This is a period of growth, of self observation and taking stock. I am finding things I don't like about myself. More positively, I am finding things I didn't know about myself. And finally, I am proving things I was not sure of about myself.  I hopped on this ride willingly. We shall see where it ultimately leads me. Tonight has been emotionally troubling for me. So I will tell myself what I have told my boys so many times:  Tomorrow is a whole, clean, brand new day with no mistakes even in it yet. So go to sleep. Tomorrow will be better.