Weekly Gratitude #7: The Ebbs and Flows of Joy and Grief

This is a bit later in the day than I usually post.

I am sorry about that.

It is that awkward period between Christmas and the New Year.

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So you are getting this post when I get around to finishing it.

I have finished up Round 1 of Christmas and Round 2 will be happening in a couple of days.  I usually prefer when the holidays are spread out.

The first Christmas post-loss was hard.  I spent it with people who loved my daughter and me and I cried myself to sleep.

The second Christmas was a bit easier than the first but the feelings around Christmas were still heavy and sad.

Last Christmas was actually happy and hopeful.

I expected the same this year as last year but this year Christmas felt kind of flat and a bit empty.  I did do a lot of Christmas events for my daughter.  She seemed to enjoy them, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that part of the reason for having a busy schedule was to keep my mind pre-occupied.

You can’t feel sad when you are experiencing Christmas cheer, right?

I didn’t want my daughter to detect my sadness this year.

Christmas (well Round 1) has come and gone.  There were dinners and presents and such.

I went to “Midnight Mass” (at 9pm, which is an abomination if you ask me but that is another discussion for another time) I had the realization even mellowed out grief still ebbs and flows.  My life is busy but at times it still feels empty without Bryon.

It is significant to mention that I am not a religious person anymore (it all feels hollow and pointless to me) but I was at “Midnight Mass” to keep myself distracted.  Last Christmas Eve I took my daughter to the 4 o’clock Mass and remember how long and lonely the late hours of Christmas Eve were.  I was at “Midnight Mass” for a distraction.

Don’t feel bad.  These ebbs and flows of joy and grief are a part of life.

But I am grateful for the following:

  1. The memories I had with Bryon.
  2. The memories I am making with my daughter.
  3. The fact that the sadness I feel right now is nowhere near as raw as the sadness I felt at this time three years ago.
  4. The hope for the future.
  5. Those who continue to give love and support to my daughter and me.

What are you grateful for this week?

Weekly Gratitude #5: When grief turns into joy

The holidays are in full swing around here.

Last week we attended the Christmas Tree lighting in the next town over.  We had missed our towns tree lighting due to it being on the same night as gymnastics and swim.

There were crafts and treats and even a visit with Santa.

 

We saw the Grinch as performed by the Frogtown Puppeteers at our local (and historic) theater.

My daughter was in our local holiday parade with her Girl Scout Troop.

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We went to the Downeast Festival of Trees.  I had never been before.  I learned that the trees all have prizes and you put raffle tickets in the buckets of the trees you wanted.  My daughter took my tickets and put them into the buckets of all the trees with toys.

She also saw Santa again and told him she wanted a Barbie.  Because the 30ish she has now isn’t enough.

On Sunday my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop took part in the Wreaths Across America Ceremony.  My father, Local and District VFW Commander was a part of the ceremony.

This week we also had my daughter’s first school Holiday concert.  I am bummed out the Prime Minister didn’t attend but I guess he’s busy with the elections in UK that are wrapping up as I am typing this.  I am also disappointed that I didn’t get to dress her up as a Christmas Lobster.

(Bonus points if you got the Love Actually Reference)

The excitement isn’t ending any time soon.

But this week it dawned on me.

I spend so much time thinking about Bryon isn’t here to see our daughter grow up.

I don’t think about what a blessing it is that I get to our daughter grow up.

It doesn’t mean that it isn’t sad that Bryon isn’t here.

We will never forget him.  Never.

I will always think about the fact that he is missing whatever milestone we are celebrating or what fun event we are doing.

But maybe it’s okay to stop dwelling on it so much.

My daughter and I have many years ahead of us.  Years filled with busy, hectic weekends.

My daughter’s joy has always been my biggest priority.

My second priority has been thinking about Bryon, being sad and dwelling on his death and absence.

And my happiness comes last.

But maybe it’s time to swap the second and third.  It’s a hard thing to admit but being sad all the time is exhausting.

And I can’t believe that Bryon would want that.

My daughter and I are still living on this Earth and it is time to embrace life for what it is and enjoy it.

Weekly Gratitude #4: Luckiest Girl in the World

This morning I looked out at the ocean and I felt like luckiest girl in the world.

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I can think of a million reasons why I am not the luckiest girl in the world.  I have definitely had my share of bad luck.

But this morning as I looked out at the ocean, drinking my peppermint bark iced coffee, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Maybe it is because I am still here.   I survived.

Maybe it is because I have an awesome daughter and I enjoy all the time I spend with here.  Even if she does try to push my buttons sometimes.

Maybe it is because I live in such a beautiful place with four very distinct seasons.  I see the cycle of life every year.

Maybe it’s because of the peppermint bark iced coffee.  It is the Christmas Season after all.

For ever reason I can think of that I am unlucky, I can think of another reason for which I am lucky.  It is just about what perspective you choose to take.

 

Weekly Gratitude #1

If you have been a longtime reader of my blog (thank you!), you would know that I used to do a weekly gratitude post on Fridays called “Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday.”  It was a fun post to write every week.  I would put in a GIF of Marky Mark. Writing the post gave me a chance to look back on my week and share the highlights.

I stopped doing those posts at the end of 2018.

It wasn’t because I stopped having gratitude.  I just shared a lot about my personal life in those posts.

I didn’t write much because I was burned out.  I went through a lot of change and a lot of healing in 2019.

When Bryon died in 2016, my life changed and I had to heal from that.  Though I will never be 100% healed from that.  Because his death had changed me and his loss will always be in my heart.

2016 will always be the worst year of my life.  (Note to the Universe or God or whoever is in charge- please don’t view this as a challenge to be accepted.  Let it ride).

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2018 was a messy and awkward year. I learned a lot about relationships, human nature and myself.

It was a year that I realized I was totally alone in my grief. Truly alone. Sure, there are people who miss Bryon. Some people miss Bryon a lot. But with all do respect, no one misses Bryon as much as I do.

It’s not rocket science, but psychology does back that up. At least the Social Readjustment Scale does.

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The Social Readjustment Scale ranks life events and rates them based on the stress impact.  Death of Spouse is the number one stresses which ranks 100 on the scale.  Divorce is the second largest stressful event and that ranks at 73 and Marital Separation ranks at 65.  Jail term (63) and Personal Injury (53) round out the top 5.  You can have more than one stressful event and those events can add up to over 100.  But death of spouse is the single most stressful event.

I am not writing these words to be hurtful to those who also miss Bryon.  I am just trying to illustrate the point that his loss was very different for me than anyone else.  Many people are respectful of that, others are not.  Some people are supportive, others are not.  Some people say wonderful things, others said horrible things.

It was a harsh realization when I realized that I was seeking support from the wrong people.  I should have leaned on my online widow tribe more than people who knew Bryon.  Even though our stories are different, we have all experienced level 100 stress.

But this year, I had to turn into myself.

I had to set some boundaries.

This has been a year of change and healing.

I am grateful that I am here.

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And I finally feel inspired to write again.

I truly try to live a life filled with Gratitude.

I thought about bringing back Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday but I decided to retire that series.

I felt like I was just making a weekly list.  Which is fine but I came to the realization that I’d rather pick one thing and delve into it.

And if I ever do feel like making a gratitude list, I can.  Because I am the CEO of this blog.

I was a little sad to start over with a new series. I had 48 Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday and I was hesitant to start over at 1 but life is about change and growth.  I can’t be afraid of change.

I shouldn’t be afraid of change. My life has had enough change over the past couple of years that I feel like I am stuck in a revolving door.

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So I hope you will join me each week and think about the things that you are grateful for.

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Eaten words

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

2016 was the year Bryon died.

2016 was also the year of a lot of celebrity deaths.

I have very little recollection of which celebrities died that year.  2016 was a bit of a blur to me.

~Kerry’s 2016 recap~

~pretend there is a dream transition sequence like they had in 1980’s sitcoms~

The first three months were pretty normal.  It was winter.  We went on a cruise.  My daughter got an ear infection, pinkeye and hand, foot and mouth disease each about a week apart.  I got pink eye and viral pharyngitis.  Bryon did not get pink eye.  I started running again and signed up for a half marathon.  And Bryon and I watched a lot of 2016 presidential debates.

Then I spent five months splitting my time sitting next to my husband in an ICU room while he clung to his life and waiting in waiting rooms while he was taken off to procedures.  I cried a lot.  I prayed and waited.  Lots of people would bring me iced coffee that I subsisted on.  My daughter got another ear infection and we discovered she was allergic to amoxicillin because she broke out in hives.  

Then Bryon died. 

The biggest before and after moment of my life.

The last four months of 2016 I cried a lot and wondered what the f*ck just happened to my life.

~dream transition sequence~

I vaguely remember a lot of celebrities died.  However I can only remember three.

While we were on our cruise, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Are Supreme Court Justices considered celebrities?  They are famous but does famous = celebrity?  That is a philosophical point I will have to ponder when I should be doing something more productive.  Though I do see a lot of fanfare for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on my Facebook Newsfeed so for the purpose of this blog post, Supreme Court Justices will be considered celebrities.

Bryon loved and respected Justice Scalia.  One time Bryon was telling me about a certain Bar that you can get admitted to where you can argue cases in front of the Supreme Court.  If I remember correctly, he said, if admitted, one of the best things was that his name would be read in front of the nine Supreme Court Justices.

Bryon never saw Mean Girls but I told him that I could imagine him having a Regina George moment.  I had to explain the whole Regina George thing to him.

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Once Bryon grasped the idea of Regina George’s popularity, he agreed.  He said he could totally see himself gushing “Justice Scalia sneered at me.  IT WAS AWESOME.”

We took an Eastern Caribbean Cruise in early 2016.  One that would be very ominous.  One omen being Justice Scalia’s death, another death being Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential run.  But don’t worry…I am not bitter about it.  Not at all.

The second death I remember was the death of Prince.  Or the artist formerly known as Prince.  Did he ever go back to being Prince?

I remember that because I was following a spoof Joe Biden Facebook account and when Prince died the spoof facebook account had a condolence posted with a picture of Prince William.  Bryon was aware at the point and I remember showing the meme and he smiled.  Or laughed the best he could.

And the third death of 2016 I remember was Alan Thicke’s death.  Dr. Seaver.

It was after Bryon was dead.

I remembered the fact that despite having a Facebook newsfeed full of Patriots fan, it was Bryon who showed me this genius video from Julian Edelman.

So yeah…I don’t remember much about who died in 2016 because one of the two most important people in my life died.

But I do remember being annoyed with seeing Facebook posts where people bemoaned the deaths of the celebrities.

Maybe these people were just paying tribute and I was blowing it out of proportion in my head.

At the time, this public grief felt disingenuous.

And I spoke up.

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Yes it is sad when someone dies.

These celebrities had family and friends and their death was going to leave a much bigger whole in their lives than us average folk.

Each person has a variety of layers of relationships.  The inner core will likely be your  family and very closest friends.  The next layer would be friends and family you aren’t close to and co-workers.  The next layer after that would probably be acquaintances.  Maybe you have a layer between friends and acquaintances for those people who are in that “more than an acquaintance but less than a friend” space.

Most of us have no more relationships after acquaintances.  Anyone else would be a stranger really.

But celebrities have tons of people outside that layer called fans.

If you are a fan, the celebrity can hold a cherished spot in your heart but that celebrity probably has no clue who you are.

When a celebrity dies, chances are your daily life is not altered.

Maybe, but probably not.

I felt strongly about it at the time.  But tonight, I am have to eat my words.

Admittingly, I was watching Golden Girls and thought about how sad it was that the only living one is Betty White.  I don’t want to think about a world without Betty White, so I won’t.

But tonight, I read the news story about Alex Trebek getting emotional.  I did not see the episode.  This evening slipped away.

I found myself thinking that I need to DVR Jeopardy because we don’t know how much longer we have Alex Trebek.

I am 41 and for as long as I remember, Alex Trebek has faithfully hosted Jeopardy.

He bridges a time in my life when my grandparents were still alive and we talked on rotary phones and cable TV was a new phenomenon to the present day.  If I wanted to watch him, I would actually have to walk up to the TV, which was probably small and black and white, turn a knob to get the TV to turn on and maybe even turn the dial if the TV previously was on a different channel.  If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to mess with the antenna (because the only TV that had cable was in the living room).

I work in oncology data.  The best way to describe what I do is that I am the person in between the patient record and government statistics.  Our data is also used in medical research.

I truly hope Alex Trebek beats the odds.  But working in oncology data, I know Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer is a grim diagnosis.

I am in awe of Alex Trebek because instead of retiring, he chose to continue hosting the show.  He chose to be continue to be there for us when he doesn’t have to be.

And from what I read in the news, he is tolerating chemo pretty well.

But life is fragile and illness can bring complications.  Complications that we may never be prepared for.

I don’t want to think about it.  So I am going to end this blog post abruptly and stew in my eaten words.  And enjoy watching Alex Trebek for as long as I am able.

Embracing the Inner Light

 

I have only had one serious relationship before I was with Bryon. I have referred to him as the Anti-Bryon because he is pretty much the opposite of Bryon.

Like, a complete 180. I had often said that Bryon was the over correction of this relationship.

Whether Bryon was an over correction or not, he was the right guy for me. The Anti-Bryon was intimidated by my strong personality, Bryon wasn’t fazed. He had an equally strong, if not stronger personality.

Anti-Bryon does have an actual name but I do feel the need to protect his privacy though I highly doubt that he reads this blog.

The last time I spoke to him was during an AOL Instant Messenger Conversation while I was campaigning for George W Bush in 2004. The conversation was just like our relationship- one sided. I ended that  conversation thinking that if he and I were going to be friends, he could put in some effort.

And we haven’t spoken since.

The Anti-Bryon and I started dating at the end of Fall semester our senior year of college. Our relationship was not exciting and never progressed. Not even physically.

After two and a half years, I wanted that “je ne sais quoi” that was missing.

And I wanted a boyfriend who wanted to have sex with me. Or at least kissed open mouthed.

This might be TMI but this is my blog. If you don’t like it- don’t read it.

One night, two and a half years into our relationship, I had had enough. We were getting ready for bed and

I confronted the Anti-Bryon. Anti-Bryon wasn’t particularly religious but he said that the thought of having sex with me made him sick to his stomach.

We went to bed.  To go to sleep.  Just to be clear.

I regret not kicking him out but my self esteem was lacking during my early 20s.

The next day, he did his thing and I had a rare day off so I drove two hours to Boston to do some shopping and to see my Grandma.

As I drove down to Boston in my 1998 Saturn that did not have a tape deck or a CD player, I flipped through the radio stations and I kept hearing “All or Nothing” by O-Town.

It may have just been a coincidence since the song was popular at that time.

I went to the shops in Downtown Crossing despite the fact there were plenty of malls in suburbia. I wanted the distraction of being “in the city”.

And in each store, O-Town was playing.

At that stage of my life, I never thought much about the esoteric but it was clear that the Universe was trying to tell me something.

Usually when I ask for a sign, I get some sort of riddle in return. Or ignored completely. But this was one of the few times in my life that Universe, or God or whoever the *bleep* is in charge (Charles, maybe?) has sent me a clear sign that’s it’s oooooover, ooooooover.

We weren’t in love. We were just friends. And this is how it ends.

After I visited my Grandma that afternoon, I drove back to Maine and broke up with the Anti-Bryon. He wasn’t heartbroken.

And neither was I, though I felt that he led me on.  He had the best of me but he didn’t want the rest of me. He got a good deal but he had no intention of having a future with me. But I never took the initiative to question his intentions or lack thereof.

So why am I thinking about the Anti-Bryon?

I have zero attachment to him. I hope he is well and happy.  I hope he is living his best life possible.

I seldom think about those years and when I do, all I remember is boredom. I don’t remember the Anti-Bryon as being particularly funny. The only funny thing I remember was this one time we went to the Portland Museum of Art (free admission with a student ID from the University of Southern Maine) and he came up behind and whispered “I see naked people…”

Like that kid on Sixth Sense. You know…the one who saw dead people.

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That is the only funny thing I remember about the Anti-Bryon. But maybe he was funny but I spent 8 years with Bryon who was one of the funniest people I have ever met.

I am thinking about this because O-Town has been stuck in my head.

Except this time the phrase I am pondering is “I’ve had the rest of you now I want the best of you.”

I don’t think anyone has ever had the “best of me”.

I was a very hyper kid. I began to learn at a very young age that I had to dial it back a notch or two or twelve to appease people.

I was shamed for being too loud, too hyper, too dramatic, too talkative.

So I tried my best to scale it down to fit in and to please people.

I kept my light from shining as bright as it could, so I could fit in with others.

Because I was too much for people.

As a parent of a child with a bright light, it pains me to see her get scolded for being her.

It’s why I took her out of her dance class when she kept being in trouble for being too talkative and “overbearing”.

I wasn’t going to pay $65 a month to have my daughters light dimmed, especially when I am sure in the upcoming years, people will try to dim her light and they will probably do it for free. She has plenty of other activities she attends and if she wants to continue to dance, I’ll find another school that’s a better fit.

When I was dating the Anti-Bryon, I tried to fit whatever mold I thought would appease him. Looking back, he never tried to fit my mold. I loved to travel and the one time he went to Boston (the actual city, not just visiting my family in the suburbs) he was pissed at me because he didn’t want to ride on the T (that’s the subway for the non-Bostonians).

Instead of saying that this relationship was a two way street and sometimes he needed to do the things I wanted, I tried harder to please him.

But during all these acts to try to please the Anti-Bryon, I lost my authentic self.

Or I should say, my authentic self became more lost and obscured.

My authentic self had been lost since I was a child.

My authentic self continued to stay lost until I realized all my co-workers, most of whom were a little older than me, were still going out and having fun. Friday nights with the Anti-Bryon consisted of watching America’s Funniest Home Videos or AFV as it had been shortened. AFV circa 2002/2003 didn’t have Bob Saget as a host so watching it felt completely pointless. You can only watch a cat leap in the air or a guy get hit in the nuts so many times before it just isn’t funny anymore.

My coworkers taught me that being an adult was not synonymous with being boring. I remember my coworker MaryBeth (I don’t know what happened to her) told me that she thought there was a more fun version of me inside and maybe if I wasn’t dating the Anti-Bryon that that side of myself could express itself.

MaryBeth saw my authentic self.

She saw something in me that I didn’t see.

I took those words to heart. The day in Boston with O-Town happened shortly thereafter.

This all happened in summer 2003.

So I decided to move home (further up the Maine coast) and I got into politics.

Politics taught me social skills and I felt a little less socially awkward though politics in itself can be socially awkward at times. I met a lot of great people (including my husband) who are still in my life but I also had to weed through a lot of narcissistic toolbags.

I learned what I needed to learn during my political years. I made some friends that I am still friends with today. I got to travel around the country and I have had some cool experiences. It was through politics where the etiquette of fine dining and other formalities became second nature.

But I found it hard to be authentic. I couldn’t take the scheming and games. So I retired. Or at the very least, I went on an indefinite sabbatical.

Bryon came into my life and when I got my political fix by tagging along to his events.

Bryon was good for my authentic self. We spent most of our free time together, engaged in intelligent and witty conversations. We traveled. We ate good food whether it was fine dining or from takeout windows.

He encouraged me not to sell myself short and to grow career-wise.  He even made me read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

I definitely grew during our years together.

But I still feel like he never got the best of me.

He got the best version available at that time but it still wasn’t the best of me.

Bryon and I both had strong personalities and I would go along with whatever he wanted sometimes because it was easier.

During those years, it never dawned on me that there was a better version of myself lurking underneath.

I don’t know if it fair to myself to feel guilty for not expressing a side of personality that I didn’t know was there.

Plus we live in a society that does not foster authenticity. We care more about how we appear on social media.

I just remember sitting by his side in the ICU, mustering up strength I didn’t know I had, promising him I would be a better wife.

 Coming from a Boston Irish-Catholic family, guilt is one of the few emotions that I learned to express.

I wanted Bryon be proud of me but I never got that confirmation.

After Bryon’s death, I started to question everything. Why did Bryon have to die? What is God so cruel?

I questioned everything I believed or have ever believed. I questioned the meaning of life.

I believe this is what all the New Age Guru’s call “the Dark Night of the Soul”.

 I thought a lot about my life and Bryon’s life. He was his authentic self. He didn’t care if people got pissed off. He lived his truth.

He still exercised tact and decorum.

There were a few times when we were watching the Republican Presidential Primary debates and a certain candidate would say something inappropriate and Bryon would day “I can’t believe he said that.  You can’t say that!”

It took Bryon’s death for me to learn how to live.

It was a time of my life where I didn’t want to live. A part of me died that Sunday morning when Bryon died.

I made the decision to keep living.

And I hope no one read that in the literal sense. I never wanted to die. I just felt dead inside.

Even with these new revelations, I continued to try to please people.  People who took advantage of me. People who didn’t respect my privacy.  People who used me my life’s tragedy for their gain. People who took my love and friendship for granted.

I made sure to show up to every daycare function and do whatever a Pinterest mom needed to do because I didn’t want to be the single mom who dropped the ball. Just don’t look inside my car. I don’t have it together nearly as much as I seem like I do.

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The irony is, no one has openly judged me. Maybe behind my back but I don’t have the  information to tell you one way or the other.

Here I am, at the age of 41 and I am finally learning that I can’t dim my light for others. My light shining brightly doesn’t affect the brightness of other lights.

 We all have to live our truth.

At age 41, I finally realized that I am not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay.

And I don’t have to drink tea I don’t like either.

And neither do you.

 Don’t let anyone blow out your light.

 And going forward, people can take me or leave. But I am done trying to please people.

You can take me or leave me.

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #47

Today is Friday!  You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.

 

I am inviting you join me on Good Vibration Gratitude Fridays!

Exciting, right?

You are probably wondering how you get in on the action.

It’s easy! If you are grateful for something, please either comment below or share a pic of what you are grateful for on Instagram with the hashtag #goodvibrationsgratitude

Also feel free to follow me on Instagram at @kerrymckim

This is the last Good Vibrations Gratitude Fridays posts in 2019.  So hard to believe!

Here are 5 things I am grateful for this week.

  1. Santa’s Pre-K visit.

    My daughter had a great Pre-K Christmas Party.  Santa stopped by and a great time was had.

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  2. A great Maine trip.

    I will save the recap for another post.  But it was a very good Christmas and it was good to be home.

  3. Christmas with the Casales

    I try not to use real people’s names in here but I just like the sound of “Christmas with the Casales”.  It makes a nice hashtag.  These people truly are like family and I was so happy to spend the day with them.

    I didn’t get many pictures but here is one with my daughter and her “masterpiece”.

  4. Bumping into a friend.

    I was at Target and a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in awhile got my attention.  It was good to see her.  Bryon and I met her when we participated at the Young Adult Ministry through our church. She’s a great person and our friendship is the victim of just being “too busy”.  I need to see her soon.

  5. A time of reflection before the new year.

    I don’t want to share too much about my holiday weekend but I have been in a period of deep reflection.  Whenever a widow reflects, there is always sadness.  Maybe’s is the Cancer Full Moon that just happened.  I dunno.  But I do appreciate the time to reflect and think about the past year and all the good that is going to come in 2019.