We all spent time worrying about things that we can not control.
You can’t control the weather.
You can’t control the temperature or the humidity. You can’t control the rain or snow.
You can’t control the economy.
You can’t control the government.
You can’t control the housing market.
You can’t control the stock market. Or the global market.
You can’t control the currency exchange rate. Or the tax rate.
You can’t control politicians or, ultimately, who gets elected. You can’t control the political climate.
You can’t control what laws get passed.
You can’t control television ratings or if your favorite show will get canceled. You can’t control which movies Netflix will remove next month.
You can’t control your family of origin. You can’t control how you were raised. You can’t control your family history or your genetics.
You can’t control your past or where you were from.
You can’t control when someone you love dies or when you will feel grief.
You can’t control other people.
You can’t control other people’s intelligence. People are free to see the world how they interpret it.
You can’t control if people take your advice. That is up to them.
You can’t control other people’s decisions. People are free to make good and bad decisions based on the knowledge that they have. Even if you do not agree with these decisions.
You can’t control people’s loyalty or honesty. You can’t control other people’s values.
You can’t control if people lie or tell the truth. You can’t control people who manipulate those around them or people who always play the victim.
You can’t control how other people treat you. People are free to treat people how they see fit. People are free to hurt you, exclude you and not take your feelings into consideration. People are free to talk about you behind your back. People are free to treat you sh*tty.
You can’t control if people forgive you. That is up to them.
But you, my friend, are free.
You are free to cancel your Netflix because they took away How I Met Your Mother.
You are free to vote for whoever you think the best candidate is and you are free to get involved in whatever issues matter to you.
You are free to associate with those who love you and make you feel better about yourself. And you are free to disassociate with people who have a negative impact on you.
You are free to hit “reply” or “add friend.” You are also free to hit “unfollow” or “unfriend.”
You are free to give advice but the recipient can choose not to take it. And you are free to choose what advice you take from others.
You are free to set your own boundaries and you are free to enforce those boundaries. You are also free to let people disrespect those boundaries. The choice is yours. People will only treat you poorly if you let them.
You are free to walk away. From toxicity, manipulation, and negativity. You can control just how much bullsh*t you are willing to deal with.
You are free to re-evaluate your life at any stage. You are free to keep what is working for you and you are free to leave behind what isn’t.
You are free to authentic and real or shallow and phony.
You are free to not give a f*ck about what people think. You are free to do you.
You are free to invest in your hobbies and interests. You are free to follow your dreams.
You are free to sell everything you own. You are free to blow your paycheck at IKEA.
You are free to travel the world or be a homebody.
You are free to cook a gourmet dinner. You are free to grab dinner at McDonalds.
You are free to give and receive love. You are free to choose who to give love to and who to receive love from.
You are free to smile and laugh.
You are free to let go of past hurts and anger.
You are free to forgive those who have wronged you when you are ready. But be careful because you are also free to let past hurts consume your life.
You are free to remember those who have passed however you want to remember them.
You can’t control what goes on around you but, ultimately, you are free to choose how you react to it.
Last Friday I went to go see Les Miserables at Proctors Theater in Schenectady with some friends. Les Miserables was the first Broadway show I had ever seen.
It was 1996 and I was a senior in high school. My cross country team traveled from Ellsworth, ME to NYC to run in the Foot Locker Regional race. Our coach, Mr Beardsley, was also the sophomore English teacher and taught a unit on theater. We learned about Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.
Because of Mr. Beardsley, there is probably a whole generation of Ellsworth graduates who love the theater, or at the very least, appreciate it.
So I saw Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater on Broadway with my cross country team. I was very moved by the play. I laughed. I cried. I got laughed at because I cried. The experience left an impression on me.
Three years later in 1999, I was studying in England and I saw Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater in London.
I started dating Bryon in 2008 and I learned that he came from a family that was involved in community theater. I shared with Bryon how much I loved Les Miserables and Bryon told me hated it. In fact his whole family hated it. I got mocked for it through the years. I think it was too pedestrian for them or something. Whatever.
Eventually Bryon did give me his reason which was simply that it was too f*ucking depressing. Fair enough.
We only saw two Broadway plays in our years together. One was Pippen (Music Box Theater) and the other was Cats (technically West End, which is the London version and it was on a cruise ship.)
We meant to see more but it was one of those things that we figured we’d always have more time.
Bryon loved Cats. It was the first and last musical he ever saw.
Personally, I thought it was only okay.
Before the show started last Friday, my friends and I had grabbed some dinner, dessert and drinks and we were chatting. I recalled how much I loved Les Miserables and how much Bryon hated it.
And then I told my friends about my list.
Before I started dating Bryon, I had written a list of ten attributes I wanted in a future mate. I guess it was to keep me focused. I kept getting into “pseudo relationships” with men who didn’t appreciate me so at this point, I was focused on myself and what I wanted.
The top three things on the list were Republican, Catholic and had to be a Red Sox fan. I was told by many that that combination was not going to happen. It surprised them that I found it in a New Yorker.
Number 4 was that I wanted my mate to be Irish. Bryon was only 1/8 Irish so that was stretching it.
And I can’t really remember what the other items on this important list were. I mean, probably something about being drug-free, employed and with no criminal record.
But I do remember one thing. I wanted a man who had varied interests. Someone who could go to wine tasting and to the symphony one night and eat hot dogs and drink beers at Fenway the next.
We never did make it to the symphony but Bryon was completely comfortable in a tux. And a kilt too. He loved formal nights on the cruise and didn’t understand why others would not dress up.
We did catch a few evening concerts at Tanglewood. We picnicked on the lawn with our infant daughter.
We went wine tasting and we were those people who would taste our wine and say things like “It’s light and crisp and I can taste the touch of citrus. Very refreshing.”
We did attend many baseball games. Most were local games. We tried to catch the Tri-City Valley Cats when the Lowell Spinners were in town. We usually went on the 4th of July because never had plans on the actual holiday and we figured nothing was more American than baseball.
Though our daughter’s first baseball game was at Pawtucket watching the Paw Sox.
Bryon thought the clam chowder was wicked good. Okay, that might be my wording. Bryon was not shy at making fun of my New England vernacular.
Our most memorable game was a month after we started dating. Our relationship still a secret from our friends as we were unsure where it was heading and we didn’t want to create gossip within our political circle. We met up for a secret weekend in Boston. It was also the weekend of my 30th birthday and Bryon took me a Red Sox game.
It was his first and last Fenway game.
But I loved that Bryon was content doing a variety of different activities.
He was a Renaissance man. I told him that once and he proudly agreed.
He liked all sports. Well, except Nascar.
He was a lawyer but he was also really good at math and economics.
He knew theater and music.
He knew how to cook.
He liked animals.
He liked history and was always up for seeing landmarks.
He loved fine dining but he also appreciated the McRib.
Generally he wasn’t into Museums but he always wanted to go to the Jello Museum. That dream was left unfulfilled.
Whenever we went on a cruise, we always went a few days early to explore the departure port. (We also did that to create a buffer in case the winter weather didn’t cooperate.)
Our first cruise was out of Miami and we took a side trip to Key West.
We visited the Southernmost Point, drank margaritas and watched the sunset on Mallory Square, visited the cats at the Hemingway House, found the Southernmost Red Sox bar and Bryon indulged my need to see the start of Route 1.
I have two random anecdotes from that Key West trip.
The first was that there was a chicken crossing the road and Bryon decides he wants to catch it. But he aborted the mission halfway through and said he wasn’t drunk enough for that to be a good idea.
The second was at night when we left the Red Sox bar. We were walking back to our motel and we pass a ghost tour that was walking towards us. Bryon tells everyone on the tour that he is alive and he is not a ghost. They all laugh. Then there were some random people walking behind the tour and Bryon goes up to them and says “Oooooh, I’m a ghost. Ooooooh.” Those people laugh too.
And I laugh at the irony because while Bryon isn’t a ghost, he’s dead and could be a ghost if he really wanted to be. He’d find a way to make it happen.
That trip also took us to Miami where we ate Cuban food, tried Cuban coffee, drove by Elian Gonzalez’s uncles house and had dinner at a tapas bar that was in a gas station (and we were surprisingly under dressed for the establishment.)
Bryon had all these interests and this intense zest for life. Whenever we traveled anywhere, Bryon tried to fit in as much as he could. We ate local food, drank local beer, saw as many landmarks as possible and he would try to squeeze in a local sporting event.
How else would I explain that I saw the Ottawa soccer club (Capital City) play Toronto? I think Bryon might have bought the team scarf. If he did, I will find it someday.
Bryon was so good for me because I have always been a restless soul but I never knew how to go out, explore and enjoy my life.
I did not have the confidence to follow my dreams.
Bryon taught me how to really live.
And in some ways, he is still teaching me how to live. Even though he is dead.
I enjoyed all our adventures but I never realized how much they taught me until Bryon was gone. When he was alive, I never had to make choices or plan anything. He did all the vacation planning. He asked for my input, combined it with his wants and came up with an itinerary. He would even plot it all on a google map. Planning always made him happy and I was content to just show up and enjoy the vacation.
But now he is gone. I can’t rely on him pave the way to living anymore.
If I want to continue to live, it’s up to me.
When I booked my airline tickets for my trip to Vegas last year, it was the first time I booked airline tickets since 2009. Because Bryon always did it.
And even though my Chicago best friend was in my Vegas with me, it felt weird to be having adventures without Bryon.
A month after that trip, I drove out to Michigan to visit my Maine best friend and I drove across New York State and Southern Ontario. I couldn’t help but think about Bryon when I drove by the Labatt Brewery. And the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I know Bryon would have been lobbying to stop- “But Kerry, we have to stop. It’s the CANADIAN Baseball Hall of Fame.”
Even though I explore the world with my daughter and friends, I do feel an emptiness because I am not sharing it with Bryon. And a sadness when it hits me that I wouldn’t be recounting the adventure to Bryon because he’s not waiting for me at home.
It’s a fear of mine that I will lose my desire to truly live before I can pass on the desire to learn and see the world to my daughter.
New Years Eve 2016, Bryon and I stayed in. We figured it would have been too hard to get a baby-sitter that night. Bryon made Beef Wellington. I never got my kiss that night because I looked over at him at 11:53pm and he was snoring in his chair.
Life was good. We had our routine. Our jobs were going well and things were going well at home. Our daughter was 16 months old and Bryon loved playing with her.
Bryon was preparing for weight loss surgery. I decided that I was going to get healthy alongside Bryon and I started Couch to 5k and I was going to run a half marathon in the fall.
In Feb 2016, we went on our last cruise with a few days in Florida beforehand. We went to the Tampa Zoo and we spent the day at Epcot with my cousin and her husband and we had dinner with Bryon’s Godmother and her family. On our cruise we visited Bryon’s two favorite ports, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. We had a few fancy dinners on our last cruise and those were probably our last date nights.
In March Bryon had his weight loss surgery and it went well. Bryon’s recovery started off well. He was looking forward to being cleared to re-institute solid food and being cleared to exercise. He wanted to start Couch to 5k and wanted to run a 5k. We were looking forward to the rest of our lives.
Bryon was critically ill in the ICU where he clung to his life for 5 months.
For 5 months I was exhausted and ran on adrenaline and caffeine, desperately pleading to God to heal Bryon. At the beginning of August, I had him transferred to New York City and for two weeks, things were starting to look up.
For the following month, I was in total shock. That shock turned into fog. That heavy fog stayed for six months and then began to lift. I started noticing things about how I felt and how I was treated.
The fog has slowly been lifting.
I was a happily married wife and mother of a one year old and now I am a 39-year-old widowed mother of a three year old. Sometimes it feels like I was living my old life yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago.
I feel that the fog is gone. I feel like my present is a combination of that moment on every episode of Saved by the Bell where the chaos is ensuing and Mr. Belding comes in and says “Hey, hey, hey! What is going on here?” and that episode of How I Met Your Mother when the glass kept shattering.
I have spent the last 22 months thinking. Thinking about so many things.
Things I have thought about over the last 22 months. (Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list)
My Marriage with Bryon.
How does his death affect our daughter? She won’t remember him.
The meaning of life.
My life from beginning to present.
What happens after we die?
My relationship with God.
How do I want to spend my remaining years?
The fact that I need to watch all those episodes of This Is Us on my DVR.
The Fuller House storyline and the fact that John Stamos is still hot after all these years.
What do I want out of life?
Can I ever love again?
What have I learned from all of this?
How can I make this horrible event positive?
I have decided to share with you some of the lessons I have learned so far. These lessons aren’t in any particular order. This is from my current perspective and may change after I spend more time thinking.
1) Grief takes time and can’t be rushed.
2) Only YOU know what’s best for YOU. Most people don’t have a clue what you need.
3) It is up to you to decide when you or if you are ready to live again.
4) You can’t change how people treat you. You can only change how you respond and set boundaries.
5) People will project their feelings onto you. Don’t take it personally. If someone is tearing you down, it is likely that they are the ones who are insecure and they tear you down to make themselves feel better.
6) Be open to others but beware of their intentions. People are not always who they project themselves to be.
7) Love yourself. You deserve it.
8) Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Life is too short to be around toxic people.
9) There is always beauty in this world. You just need to make sure your blinders aren’t on.
10) People generally mean well. They don’t mean to say painful things. They are just products of a society that doesn’t know how to handle death and grief.
A few weeks ago I wrote about what I learned about love from your father. I actually learned a lot more about love than just that so I will most likely write more about those lessons. But I also decided that I wanted to share some life lessons from before I met your father. This is a compilations of the life lessons I learned from the boys I dated before I started dating your father. I do think these experiences were valuable. These experiences led me to your father. Without these mistakes, I wouldn’t have been ready to let your father into my heart.
Who knows, if I start dating again, I might write about “the things I learned about love from the a-holes I dated after your father died” but let’s hope that I have learned to weed out the a-holes.
It might not seem possible but yes, your mother dated a few guys before she met your father. Not a lot. Remember, your mother has a hard time letting her guard down. But these lessons sum up my experiences and what I had learned from them.
Some people may be reading this and thinking, well what if she grows up and doesn’t like boys. That might happen. And I will love you no matter what. But I won’t be any help. If you should grow up and prefer the company women, we will find someone that is better qualified to give you advice. Because I can’t. I don’t even really have men figured out. I had your father figured out but he was not an ordinary man.
Don’t be on someone’s hook. There is a whole episode of How I Met Your Mother about it. It’s when you aren’t in a relationship but you almost find yourself in some sort of pseudo relationship. I found myself in more of these than I can count. I would form a close relationship with a guy but I could never let on how I truly feel because I was too proud for that. I was sure that if I told these guys how I felt that I would be rejected and no one wants to be rejected. So I settled on friendship. These guys would come to me for emotional support and I gave it out. But almost inevitably, they would find another girl to give their affection too. I would be left baffled. It wasn’t fair. I had put in all these hours of emotional support and I was overlooked. Who knows? Maybe some of these guys were into me but we convinced that I only saw them as a friend. It’s fine to be friends with guys. But if you find yourself giving way than you are receiving, distance yourself. If he wants you, he will come to you. You are too amazing to waste your time on unreturned love.
You are worth a nice dinner. This was also something I learned from your father. I put it here because the a-holes I dated before your father support this claim, just on the negative side. Be wary if you are brought to a chain restaurant on a first date. Well, your first real date. As I write this in 2017, coffee dates are apparently the thing. Most people meet online and meet up for coffee where they size each other up. They decide if the other is worth the cost of an expensive meal and, in my case, I would be deciding if this guy is worth the cost of a babysitter to watch you. Sounds depressing, right? At the very least, not romantic yet honest. By the time you read this, I have no idea what the modern dating rituals will be. Some really cool fad that doesn’t exist yet could be all the rage. But remember this for your first sit down, dinner date.
It’s In His Kiss. It is a song by Betty Everett that was popular when your Grammy and Pappy where young. The concept was elaborated on in the movie 2005 romantic comedy Hitch. Will Smith plays a dating doctor and he is coaching Kevin James (who I have a bit of a crush on, though I forgot to put him in my list of celebrity crushes) and he tell Kevin James’s character that woman judge the whole relationship by the first kiss. Based on my experience, I think that is valid. Your father was a good kisser. The a-holes that I dated before your father…not so much. Does that mean if a guy isn’t a good kisser that there isn’t a chance? I wouldn’t say yes but you need to ask yourself if you think you can teach the guy to be a good kisser and do you want to do that. Also, while some kissing is skill, most of it is passion and chemistry and you can’t teach that.
If you say you love him and he just says that was “random”, he’s not for you. Your mother may have not worn her heart on her sleeve but when she loved, she loved hard. Combine this with the fact that she is hyper-verbal at times. When your mother is in love, she likes to express it verbally and she will whenever she feels it whether it’s over a romantic dinner or doing something mundane like sitting in front of the TV and watching 20/20. Your father never once got annoyed with me saying “I love you.” He said it a lot too. And randomly.
Never give up your dreams for a guy. A long, long time ago (1999, which is 18 years ago as I write this but by the time you are ready to date, it will likely be over 30 years ago) I studied for a semester in England. It was one of the best experiences in my life. I had found out about a program where I could return to England for six month after my college graduation on a student visa. I could sleep on the floor of my friends flat and pour pints for six months but who cared? I would be in England. And then I started dating a man that would become my ex-boyfriend and I didn’t apply. I was too caught up with this guy and his mediocrity that I didn’t do an experience where I would shine. They say it’s never the things you do that you regret, it’s the things you didn’t do. This is one of my biggest regrets. No guy is worth extinguishing your dreams. The right guy will wait for you.
If something doesn’t feel right, just stay away. If you feel like you are being told lies, this isn’t a good sign. Stay away from the guy who has baby mama’s calling him for child support despite his claims that he’s sterile and only has one testicle. This would also apply to anyone with a criminal record or belongs to any groups that could be described as hate groups. If the stories don’t add up and your gut is telling you something, stay away. You are smart and you need to trust yourself.
If you feel like you are settling, you probably are. It’s not always passion and fireworks but if you feel like you can’t be yourself and that you are missing out on life then run. I knew it was time to quit when I was dating a guy who like stay in on Friday night and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. Granted it was before YouTube (which probably will be antiquated by the time you start dating) but it was after the Bob Saget years. Life is too short to be with someone who kills your spirit.
All these a-holes were good for something. They made me into the person I needed to be to let your father into my heart. So even if you wind dating your fair share of a-holes, they will shape you into the person you need to be for that special someone.