Be grateful

Today’s writing prompt came from Teresa’s Creations.  Two word prompt: “Be grateful

Be grateful.

That is what they say tell her.

She must not be grateful for what she has.

How would they even know?

Of course she is grateful.

For her daughter.

For her friends and family.

For her means.

For her health.

How dare they imply she isn’t grateful for that.

Can’t she just miss her husband?

She loves her friends, but they can’t fill the void he leaves.

She loves her daughter.  

Her daughter is young.  

It’s not fair to expect her to take the place of her father.  

People tell her to be grateful.

Do people even know what they are saying?

Do they not understand what she has been through?

Be grateful for what?

The pain?  

The agony?

The loneliness?

The loss of her dreams?

The lost plans?

The loss of security?

The loss of faith?

People think they are helping, but they don’t know.

Why can’t she just feel what she feels?

Why can’t she just be sad?

 

Advertisements

Somedays I really hate my life

Some days I really hate my life.

I know I am supposed to be grateful and all that stuff.  And I am.  

Sometimes I feel like I am faking it because it takes effort to be grateful.

No matter how grateful I am, it doesn’t erase what happened.  

It doesn’t fill the void of Bryon’s absence.

Some days I really hate my life.

I hate that I am inching closer to 40 and I am a single mother.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

I hate seeing children with their fathers and knowing that my daughter doesn’t get hers.

I hate that I had to wait until I was 30 to find my soul mate and he still got ripped away from me while still in my 30’s.    

I hate the loneliness that comes with grief.  The truth is that I am not alone.  I have amazing friends that I am grateful for but they all have their significant others to comfort them in their grief over Bryon.  I don’t have Bryon to comfort me.  Because he is dead.

I hate the lost dreams.  The plans we had that will never happen.  I hate that I have to figure out what to do with the rest of my life without him.

Some days I really hate my life and today is one of those days.

Exhaustion

I have come to a realization over the past couple of days…I am exhausted.

I am physically tired. I can feel it in my bones.

I am mentally tired.  

I am emotionally tired.

I am spiritually tired.

I always feel like I am behind the eight ball.

I have so much to do and no energy to do it. At times my life feels like an overwhelming mess.  Too much to do. My house is a mess. For the past year and a half, I felt that the mess in my house is just representative of my life.  But is the mess, both the literal and the figurative, ever going to get cleaned up?

I don’t know how to feel rested. I can’t remember the last time I felt rested. Was it before Bryon got sick or was it before my daughter was born? I cant remember.

I went from running on fear and adrenaline to being numb and in a fog. Now that the fog is lifting and life is starting to feel “normal”, I feel empty, hollow and drained.

This empty, hollow and drained feeling is discouraging because I feel like I have worked so hard to be positive.  I feel like I have worked hard to put myself first and it feels like I wated useless energy.

I could just stay home but then I am left alone with my thoughts which get depressing if left to their own devices.  I need the company of my friends right now.  But I am an introvert which means that I naturally need alone time which puts me in a contradictory situation.

When am I going to feel like I have sh*t together again?

Kind of grateful

I was happily married and thought I was with the man I would grow old with.

But life had other plans.

Life doesn’t care.

Life can be cruel.

Life doesn’t care who you are, where you have been or where you are going.

Life can rip your heart out.

Life can chew you up and spit you out.

Life can destroy the very foundation of everything you had and leave you to pick up the debris.

One of my worst nightmares came true.

Life made me a young widow.

What I would give to get my old life back.

My old life was innocent and selfish.  Innocent because I had the luxury of worrying about things that didn’t matter.  I didn’t know what true trauma was.  Selfish because I didn’t know how good I had it, nor did I take the time to appreciate what I had.

Bryon’s illness and death has changed me.  The whole experience has been hell, but I would do it all over again, even if it meant the same result.

I am grateful for the time I did have with Bryon.  I got to experience true love.

To have someone look at you like you are the only one in the room.

Where you can communicate with each other through your eyes from across a room.

To be so in sync with someone that you can finish their sentences.

Someone who would always hug you or hold your hand.

Someone who always rushes home after whatever work thing he/she had just to see you.

The list goes on.  Bryon wasn’t just my husband.  He was the love of my life and my best friend.  My partner in crime and my other half.  I always called him my “one and only” and my soul mate.  It makes my heart hurt to think that he probably won’t be my “one and only.”

But I know I am lucky.  Some people go through their whole lives without ever experiencing love.  But I did, because of Bryon.

I am grateful for all that Bryon gave me.  The love, the memories, the vacations, the laughter, the conversations.  For the fact that he worked so hard to provide for me and our daughter.  For the beautiful wedding and an amazing daughter.  For his faith in me.

He opened up a whole world for me.  I learned so much from him.

I am thankful that because of him, I feel whole as a person even by myself.  And because of him, I know that when the time comes for me to write the second chapter of my life’s great love story, I will not settle.

I was lucky to be your leading lady, Bryon McKim.

Chicago 2017: Navy Pier

During my weekend in Chicago I really wanted to go take my daughter on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I first rode on the Ferris Wheel in 2004.  It was the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I had attended a wedding in Wisconsin and it was ten days after my Grandma Sullivan died.  I had found out while I was working.  It was a Friday and my father and I had been planning to leave that day to try to get to Massachusetts before she passed but we were too late.

I can still remember what I did in those ten days:

Friday- Grandma died.
Saturday- Went to Massachusetts (5 hours away from my home in Maine).
Sunday- Grandma’s wake.
Monday- Grandma’s funeral.
Tuesday- Went back to Maine.
Wednesday- Helped my mother prepare for Thanksgiving
Thursday- Thanksgiving
Friday- Flew from Bangor, ME to Madison, WI (via Cincinnati) to attend the wedding of a friend that I had attended university with while I was in England.  My cousin (from the other side of the family) was crazy enough to fly up from Florida to attend as my guest.
Saturday- Wedding just outside of Madison, WI
Sunday-  Went to Milwaukee with my cousin.  We went to the Milwaukee Public Museum, had lunch at Usingers, and toured the Colonel Pabst Mansion.

I couldn’t resist posting this Wayne’s World clip.

On Monday my cousin was crazy enough to take a bus to Chicago with me.  She was crazy enough walk around Chicago with me for 12 hours in the cold, November rain.  We had pizza at Gino’s, walked by Wrigley field, went to the top of Sears tower and rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier.

I have no pictures of myself on the Ferris Wheel but here is one of me on the El.

189627_17695717840_1577_n
Chicago 2004

And because I talking about the cold November rain got this song stuck in my head…here you go-

I returned to Maine that Tuesday.

There were lots of things that I did not know at that time.  I had just gotten involved in politics but I had not even heard of the Young Republicans.  18 months after that trip to Chicago, I would attend the Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  On that trip, I would attend a party at the Romanian Embassy and on the shuttle bus ride there, I would sit behind a girl from Chicago who would become on of my best friends. (You met her here)

In the fall of 2007, I was living in Southern Indiana with another friend from the Young Republicans.  I was on a three months contract for work.  My roommate and I drove up to Chicago to see my best friend and another good friend in Chicago.  We had dinner at an Italian restaurant and then went to Navy Pier.  And we rode the Ferris Wheel.

196476_19062587840_3148_n
Chicago 2007
196644_19062522840_351_n
Chicago 2007
188498_19062527840_1474_n
Chicago 2007

In 2007 we were single girls travelling around the country, attending political meetings and partying with future leaders and elected officials (some of them surprised us).

In 2012, we both got married.  I got married in September in Albany and she got married in December in Mexico.  Her location was a bit more exotic than mine but it didn’t matter.  We were both there for each other on our big days.

163351_10152007789837841_2022148149_n
Albany, 2012
74198_10151974547607841_391795972_n
Mexico, 2012

We both had our daughters in 2014.  Her daughter came in April and mine came in September.  They are exactly 5 months apart.

And she was there for me when Bryon died.  She made the trip to Albany (along with the other lovely lady in her wedding photo).  They actually already had the plans to be in NYC the weekend that ended up being the weekend of Bryon’s funeral.  His birthday was the day after his funeral and she made arrangements to meet my father halfway between NYC and Albany to bring our daughter to see him for his birthday.   I told Bryon that he would see our daughter, as long as the doctors said it was okay.  He was excited.

But he died a week before his birthday.

And now I am here.  A widow.  Travelling as much as a I can this year to make up for the fact that I spent most of 2016 in an ICU room watching Bryon slowly die.  And because I promised him as he was dying that I would still take our daughter on adventures.

So that brings me to Chicago in 2017.  With my best friend and our young daughters.  And I wanted to go to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris Wheel…again.

20031690_10155814274532841_570146806796521482_n
Chicago 2017
20156130_10155814274707841_7469280915709934603_n
Chicago 2017
20106516_10155814275132841_3645585616520718671_n
Chicago 2017
19961177_10155814275247841_4499783531740664790_n
Chicago 2017
19989611_10155814275652841_9156754146822396110_n
Chicago 2017
20170716_142839
Chicago 2017
20170716_142602
Chicago 2017
20170716_142558
Chicago 2017
20170716_142554
Chicago 2017
20170716_142435
Chicago 2017
20170716_142431
Chicago 2017

Both of the little ones enjoyed the ride.  I can’t remember if it was my friends daughters first time or not.  I think it’s safe to say that when my daughter and I return, that we will go on the Ferris Wheel again.  Maybe next time, she will be tall enough for some of the other rides.

 

The day I lost my faith in God

Alternate title: The post that is most likely to get me defriended on Facebook.  #sorrynotsorry

In some ways, July 12, 2016 was the hardest day for me during Bryon’s crisis.  

March 29, 2016 was the day that the sh*t hit the proverbial fan.  The day he went into septic shock and his organs started failing.  My life had been turned upside in an instant.  I was stunned.  I was consumed with fear and was struggling just to process what had happened.

August 20, 2016  was the day I learned that Bryon was not going to survive.  The resident had told me that his heart was going to stop beating that day.  He ended up holding out until the next morning.  At this point, I knew that this was the reality.  I had seen a lot in the past five months and I knew that this was the end so I was able to process it.  It was the ending I was desperately trying to prevent but at least the days of hell sitting in the ICU were going to be over.  

Little did I know that the hell would continue for the months that followed. #widowhood #grief

July 12, 2016.  

One year ago today.

The day that Bryon had gone into septic shock for a second time.  Until that point, I didn’t think there was a chance he could die.  He survived septic shock in March. He was stable and recovering very slowly.  But here I was again, staring at his vitals, desperately trying to will his blood pressure to stay up.  I couldn’t believe we were back where we were in March.  Except in March, Bryon had been strong going into this.  Now he was back to square one but with a body that had been weakened after three and a half months in the ICU.  

July 12, 2016.

The day I lost my faith in God.

No, I am not an atheist. I believe He exists.  I just know that He doesn’t give a damn about me.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many Rosaries I said or how many Novenas I said.  He didn’t care that I put the Novenas on Facebook either.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many church prayers lists Bryon was on.  

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many candles were lit for Bryon.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many convents I had submitted online prayer requests too.  

(In case you are wondering, submissions were made to every convent that accepted online requests in the English speaking world.  About ten pages of Google results.)

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care that the Rabbi’s in Bangor, Maine were praying for him.  

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care that Bryon’s name was whispered into the Dalai Lama’s ear.

It was the day that I realized God was going to do whatever God was going to do.  While He’s off performing miracles for other people, He wanted Bryon to suffer for months in the hospital.  He wanted me to have to watch it.  Doesn’t sound like the loving God I heard about throughout my childhood in C.C.D.

People are so quick to defend God to me.  I get it. People like Him.  But it makes me feel more alone in my grief when people do that.  Like my grief isn’t taken seriously.  Like I am a teenager rebelling against her parents because she didn’t want to go to her confirmation class. (That may have happened.)

C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed described it best:

… Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

There has been a lot of buzz in the “widow world” about the engagement of Patton Oswalt.  People are so quick to judge him even though they haven’t walked in his shoes.  People are so quick to project their ideals and standards onto other people.  I belong to many online widow groups, most of which consist of young widows and widowers and so many of them share stories about how they found love again…but those in their life (parents, in-laws, friends, children, etc)  aren’t comfortable with it.  They get told that it is “too soon” and will be told that they are still healing.  

It is no one’s place to dictate when someone is healed or healed enough.  Never.

(For additional reading on this topic, please see Kerry Phillips, John Polo and Erica Roman.  They say everything so much more eloquently than I can.)  

I am closing in on 11 months of widowhood and I am not ready to date again.  So I have no experience with being judged about that.  Who knows what kind of reaction I will get.  Though I know if anyone tries to stand in the way of any future happiness, my best friend Kimmy Gibbler will shut them down.

I have been judged about my relationship with God.  And it’s frustrating as hell to be told what my relationship with God should be by people who have never been in my situation.  It demeans my grief and what I have been through.  I am hurting in a way that most have never felt.  It is insulting to be told that I have to love a God that took my husband from me and my daughter’s father away from her from people who never had to feel this kind of pain.

My grief is mine.  My relationship, no matter how strained, with God is mine.   Not yours. No one has the right to project onto me how I should feel.  And as far as I am concerned, He slammed the door on me and the ball is in his court.

Living without an agenda

I am a girl of a lot of contradictions.  I am part city girl and I am part small town girl.  I am a quiet introvert but I am also social.  I am part girly girl and I am part tomboy.  I am part homebody and part world traveler.  I attributed my contradictions to the fact that I spent part of my childhood near Boston and part in rural Maine.  But I have also learned that it is typical of my INFJ personality type.

Due to the contradicting nature of my personality, I found that I clung to the aspects of my personality that were more absolute.  I might not know if I am a city girl or a country girl, but I am a New England Girl. I love the Boston Red Sox and fried clams. My heritage and religion stayed the same so I clung to the fact that I am an Irish Catholic. I created an identity for myself and I stayed strong and true to this identity.  I have seen this referred to as a fixed identity.

I also liked to live within my comfort zone.  I did not take risks in my personal or professional life.  I worked hard and moved up in my career, but I never pushed myself to try something unknown.  I never was one to let my guard down in my love life and I would never dream of telling anyone how I felt.  I never would have wound up with Bryon if he didn’t take a risk on me.  

I lived my life with my strong fixed identity in my comfort zone.  I never challenged why I believed certain things.  I never left my comfort zone and therefore I inhibited my own personal growth.  I clung to my likes and dislikes without revisiting them to see if they changed.  I also chose friendships based on how they fit into my fixed identity.

I was a wife and mother.  I worked in healthcare data.  I was an Irish Catholic.  I knew there was a God and that God was loving.  I knew where I stood on the political spectrum.  I knew who my friends were.  Bryon and I lived a life where we had a modern view of traditional gender roles where we both worked, but Bryon did the work around the house and the yard and killed bugs and I changed diapers, made sure there was milk in the fridge and unsuccessfully tried to keep up with the laundry.  Bryon was a proud husband and father.  He worked hard to provide and he didn’t want me to worry about anything.   I worried about things that weren’t really problems, but Bryon always assured me that everything was going to be okay.  I lived a very safe and secure life.  I was happy with my life and felt no need to question my identity or push myself out of my comfort zone.

Then the crisis hit.

In a five day period my husband went from recovering from a minimally invasive surgery to clinging for his life in the ICU.  I was not prepared for this outcome.  We were at a large regional medical center.  Up until this point, I believed in the healthcare system and that it worked.  This wasn’t supposed to be happening.  

I didn’t know what to do. Bryon always made sure everything was alright and now I had to be the strong one.  I wanted to curl up and pretend it was all a bad dream because it didn’t feel real.  But I had to stay strong for him. How could I expect him to survive if I gave up on him?  I felt helpless.  I was at the mercy of the doctors and God, both of which failed us.  

I vowed to myself that if Bryon had survived, I was going to be a better wife.  I wasn’t going to take him for granted.  I knew that if Bryon was to survive that he would likely have some permanent damage to his body.  I started to think research who the best doctors were in Boston and New York.  Life wasn’t going to be how we envisioned, but that didn’t matter.  All that mattered was Bryon surviving.

For five months, I was at Bryon’s side while trying to make our daughter’s life as normal as possible.  The latter I was able to do with the help of my parents, the staff at my daughter’s daycare and my friends who filled in any child care gaps. For five months, I prayed for a miracle that wouldn’t happen and I watched him slowly die.

Enter widowhood.  

Widowhood is an ultimate game changer.

For five months, my life was mostly spent in an ICU room. For five months I listened to beeping machines and heard medical terms and jargon thrown around.  When Bryon died, I had to get re-acquainted to living in the world again.  It was a combination of widow fog and the re-entry shock that was similar to when I returned to the United States after studying in England for three months.

My life was permanently altered.  I had held out hope that Bryon was going to survive and now that hope was crushed.  It wasn’t like I went back to my old life.  I couldn’t go back to my old life.  Bryon wasn’t there.  He wasn’t just a detail in my life. He was my rock and our life was built around that rock.  The core of my life wasn’t just shattered, it was completely gone.  All our hopes and dreams were gone.  Bryon had spent years working on a career that would never progress past where he was in March 2016.  We were never going to have our second child or buy a bigger house.  We weren’t going to take the cruises we were planning.  Our life was gone.  My life was gone.

When Bryon was in the hospital, my only semblance of normalcy was my daughter.  I still got up with her in the morning, I still took her to daycare, and when my parents would return to Maine periodically, I put her to bed at night.  And after Bryon died, the only thing that kept me going was my daughter.  I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed all day, but I had to get up and take care of my daughter.  She gave me a purpose to live.

When you go through this kind of loss, it changes you.  I learned that I was much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned that I am smarter and more resourceful than I thought I was.  I also learned that my threshold for bull sh*t is lot lower than I thought it was.

I learned what it meant to have courage.  Courage to wake up in the morning.  Courage to move forward with my career with a new company.  Courage to let people into my life.  Courage to let go of negative people who were self serving and tore others down.  Courage to share my story.

I have always been an introvert, but I learned that I needed people, more than I ever could have imagined.  I am lucky because I learned that I had a strong support system who continues to be there for me.  Before widowhood happened, I was content in my own thoughts.  But since Bryon died, I can’t be left in my own thoughts for too long or they become dark and intensely sad.  I need my relationships to keep me positive and hopeful of the future.  I still think a lot and I read a lot but chatting with my friends keeps me balanced.

After a crisis such as this one, every core belief you had is questioned.  How can I believe that a loving God would do this to me?  I believe in God, or a higher power at the very least, but I no longer believe that He is a loving God.  That opinion always upsets people but it upsets me that people don’t sincerely try to understand my point of view before defending God.   I am beginning to read up on Buddhism and it makes a lot of sense to me.  But I don’t think I will ever completely give up my title as Catholic girl.  

While I don’t think I am going to switch political parties anytime soon, I get frustrated on my party’s view of healthcare.  But I also get frustrated with the other party’s view too.  Both parties play a proverbial tug of war.  But the problems in healthcare are not on a linear spectrum.  The problems run deeper than just access and cost.  Who cares about if it’s accessible or how much it costs if there is no quality?  But people can’t understand that unless they live through something like this.

I’ve stopped worrying about the small things.  I take more risks.  One of the worst possible things that could have happened to me did happen and I survived.  The small things don’t matter.  You can change your mind.  Most decisions don’t have a lasting impact. Most things can be reversed or fixed.  

My identity is not fixed.  If I remain open, I might learn new things.  I may meet new people who could change my life.  I could open myself up to new experiences, new hobbies and new ideas.  I could have undeveloped dimensions of my personality that I never would have developed before I was convinced I knew who I was and what my plan was.  I was so concerned about the next five steps that I wasn’t truly living in the present.

Now there are very few things I can say with certainty.  That I will live my life in the present and focus on what matters:

I need to live my life to the fullest.  I owe Bryon that much.  He gave me so much during his short time here and I need to learn from him.  

I am going to make positive changes as the result of Bryon’s death.

And that I am going to be the best mother I can be and help my daughter be the best version of herself.  

And I am going to love those around me as hard as possible.