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.

 

Survivor’s guilt and forgiveness

I have been on this planet for 41 and a quarter years.

I have had lots of experiences throughout my life.  I have had the opportunity of education in two very different areas of study.  If you told 18-year-old Kerry that she would go back to school in her thirties and take classes such as “Anatomy and Physiology,” “Pharmacology”  and “Pathophysiology”, she probably would have laughed at you.

Though truthfully, 18-year-old Kerry did not know what pathophysiology was, so she would not have had any business laughing at you.

(Pathophysiology is basically the functional changes a body has to an illness.)

I have been lucky to have had met some great people and have traveled to some great places.

I ate some fancy dinners and listened to some very important people talk.

The dinners themselves were not that interesting.  It was almost always some form of chicken.

I have been lucky to have a career and own a home.

And most importantly, I have experienced love within marriage and motherhood.

I know I often lament about how I did not realize how great my life was during those years.

My life was great during those years.  And I should cut myself slack for not appreciating it.

Because that was Before.

Before IT all happened.

Before my life changed forever.

That version of myself stopped existing on March 23, 2016.

But after I lost everything- after I hit my rock bottom- it was impossible not to think about my years with Bryon and regret that I did not make the most of those years.

I took him, our marriage and our love for granted.

And I took our future for granted.  We were supposed to grow old together.

But we all know that life had other plans.  The proverbial curve ball.

True to my Boston-Irish-Catholic upbringing, guilt is one of the few emotions that my upbringing taught me that it was okay to express (anger and restrained amusement are okay too).

The first place my mind went was that Bryon’s death was some sort of punishment.

God was clearly punishing me for something.

Either that or he was punishing my daughter.  She wasn’t even two at that point, so I really don’t think she could have committed an infraction so bad that it would warrant losing her father.

I could write another whole post on my thoughts on God so I will save that for another time.

For another time when I feel like being preached at….

So God, or the Universe, or Whoever is in charge decided that Bryon’s life was over.

And my mind immediately starts searching for any reason that it could have happened.

Because Bryon dying did not make sense.

So I turned inward and figured this must have been some sort of punishment from God for something I did.

Who knows, maybe I did something in a past life to deserve this because I really do try to be a good person.

To this day, I will never understand why Bryon had to die.

I have accepted that I will probably never know that answer.

Maye God is just cruel.

Why do some people get to live long lives and why do some people have to die young?

But one thing I can tell you with all certainty is that survivor’s guilt is real.

I once heard that survivor’s guilt is your psyche’s way of trying to assume control in a situation where you did not have any control.

That makes sense to me.  When Bryon was sick, I never felt so helpless in my life.  All I could do was wait and hope for the best.  Luckily we had visitors but there was a lot of time where I read some fluffy books, said some rosaries and I organized all my pinterest boards.

For years, I beat myself up for taking Bryon for granted.  Maybe if I appreciated him more, he wouldn’t have had to die.

But it wasn’t until recently that I decided to cut “Before Kerry” some slack.

I have suffered from survivors guilt for over three years and I realize that it is time that I have to forgive myself.

There was no way I could have known.

I had a husband who loved me very much.  Sure we could argue.  We were two people who both had Mercury in Leo.  But we loved each other fiercely.

Frankly, there were times Bryon took me for granted too.

Our love and our bond was strong.  There was enough trust for us to be able to take each other for granted.

Isn’t this what life is supposed to be about- taking what we learn from life’s difficult moments and use them to be a better person.

I don’t recommend taking people for granted.

But “Before Kerry” was doing the best she could with what she knew at the time.

Aren’t we all just trying to do our best?

I remember one day just feeling completely beside myself.  Bryon couldn’t speak because he was on a trach.  I remember saying to him, out of complete desperation, that I wish I could have switched places with him.  As if that was even an option.  It wasn’t an option but yet it seemed like the best option.  He just looked at me and shook his head no.

I know he wouldn’t want me to feel this way.

I need to forgive myself so I can move forward.

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.

Homeostasis

Have you ever had an event that kicked you on your ass?

Or at the very least, knocked you off-balance a bit? It could be a death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup or a job loss.

You may find yourself in a situation where you want to do whatever you can to get back to “normal.”


There is actually a scientific process that describes this.

Homeostasis

Ho * me * o * sta * sis /noun/ the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological process.

I had never heard of the concept of homeostasis until Spring of 2009. I had gone back to school for Health Information Technology and had to take the required Anatomy and Physiology courses. I had spent my 20s underemployed and I started working in a billing office at a local hospital. One of my bosses (and mentors) recommended I go back to school so I could advance my career.

So there I was, looking at an online bulletin board trying to come up with 3 discussion posts on Homeostasis.


After that course concluded, I did not think about homeostasis for a very long time.

Not for another 7 years and three months.

I remember seeing Bryon, critically ill and clinging to his life. Despite unfathomable injury and illness, I could see his body trying to heal.


Even in his fragile state, his body was trying it’s hardest to achieve homeostasis. Of course we know his body was not successful in that feat.


After Bryon died, I looked at the shattered remains of what had been my life and wondered what I needed to do to put those pieces together.


I desperately wanted my life to achieve a state of homeostasis.


Of course, my primary identity was that of wife and mother and without Bryon, homeostasis would not be possible.


I wondered what I needed to do to achieve homeostasis. This seems ridiculous to look back on because my life was in shambles.

At that time, I felt that homeostasis involved being a wife so I figured that after an acceptable amount of time, I would find the next love of my life.

This works for some people but raw, profound grief takes a lot out of you and takes longer than expected.

I was a mess for awhile and I believe that like attracts like so I didn’t want to attract a mess.


I was looking at my Facebook memories the other day. There was a memory from 2017 where I said that when I feel in love again that I wanted it to be at Christmas. While I would love for my life to be a Hallmark movie, it dawned on me that as time goes by, I believe in love a little less each day. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Bryon was my rock and he grounded me.

Bryon had a way of sizing up a situation and making sure things were okay.


If I were upset with people, Bryon would remind me that I was overestimating people and their intelligence and/or loyalty. Sometimes he said things people didn’t like to hear. At times I could find him harsh but he was usually correct. I miss his insight and his loyalty to me, our daughter and those closest to him.


So how could I stabilize my life when my rock was gone?


I am working towards it by making necessary life changes, removing toxic people from my life and doing inner work.


I have often reflected what Bryon would think about many situations going on from political scandals and other news as well as the shenanigans of people we knew.


It dawned on me recently that Bryon was the grounding force for many people. Many people sought his advice.


And it’s no wonder that in some circles I was in, things became off. Everyone is knocked off balance. Bryon isn’t here to ground things. To knock sense into people.


And most of us are probably going through life trying to achieve the elusive state of homeostasis.


But while we physically can achieve homeostasis (and even that is questionable because our bodies are always aging), we are not designed to achieve homeostasis in our psyche.

Our minds and hearts are meant to be expanding. We should be living our lives outside our comfort zones. We should be learning and growing.

True homeostasis is not possible.


So if you are struggling, remember that. You just need to find, as that cliche goes “your new normal.” And as long as you are trying to better yourself, then you will grow.


And you will wind up where you need to be.

Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

Tired

This wasn’t the blog post I was intending to write.

The one I was intending to write had a lot more anger.

So to the people who like to gossip about me…sorry. You will have to get your entertainment somewhere else.

You also may want to re-evaluate your own life.

But what do I know. 🤷‍♀️

Also, I just want to say that Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” is one of the best songs ever written. I discovered it driving one random day on Mount Desert Island, ME during my political days.

Though it shouldn’t be confused with the bar that used to be in Troy, NY.

Here is a picture of Bryon and I at that bar.

I digress.

If you don’t know me by now, my mind goes on tangents.

I used to be embarrassed by it. People told me that I think too much.

As I have gotten older, I have embeaced my overactive mind.

Maybe everyone else should think some more.

Anyway, if you follow my blog, you probably know that I don’t write as much as I had previously.

It’s because I am tired.

You’re probably thinking “Duh, Kerry…we are all tired. You aren’t special.”

While it’s true that I am not special, over the past three and a half years, I probably have had a lot more major life changes than the average person.

I am not mocking those tired from work and parenthood.

It’s rough.

But when you add life changes and grief on top, you become exhausted.

And secondary losses. Because when your person dies, you aren’t just missing your person. You lose so much more; your identity, your sense of security, your faith, your health, sometimes you lose your financial security. Your mileage may vary. Secondary loss is different for everyone.

It’s one thing to be tired from being busy but rebuilding your life brings it to a new level.

Sleeping in on a random Saturday will not make up for the exhaustion I feel.

(Before people freak out, obviously I am speaking in general terms. Everyone has different stressers and everyone reacts differently. And maybe you are working to exhaustion. If you are working to exhaustion, please take a relaxing break. The rest of you…just bear with me.)

I have been too tired to be creative to write.

I am too tired to read.

I started to work out again and I have been too tired to attend my fitness classes.

I manage to scrape together enough energy to work and spend time with my daughter. But I am running on fumes.

Now some of you pseudo/armchair psychologists with Web MD medical degrees might say I am depressed but I know I am not.

I was diagnosed with dysmythia as a young adult. Dysmythia is a chronic, low grade form of depression. I seem to have outgrown it in my twenties.

I am not depressed. I feel great joy and gratitude in my life even if it is alongside anger from losing Bryon.

I’ve just had a lot thrown at me over the past 3.5 years.

I’m just tired.

I just want to stay by myself at some air bnb by the ocean, somewhere warm and just lay down in a reclining lawn chair and listen to the ocean.

Like, for days on end.

If I were to venture out, it would be to get dressed up and go have a fancy meal by myself. With steak and (preferably) Chateauneuf De Pape though a Cote Du Rhone would be acceptable. And something chocolate for dessert.

And I am not trying to be pretentious. I just like a good steak and red wine.

Anyone that knows me well enough knows that I travel with packed itineraries. I usually come back from vacation needing a vacation.

But here I am…tired.

Maybe I need to do my own version of Eat, Pray, Love except I don’t want to be as pretentious as Elizabeth Gilbert. She just totally rubbed me the wrong way though I didn’t mind her when I read Big Magic. Though I read Eat, Pray, Love when it came out, long before my life got turned upside down. Maybe I should give her another chance.

When I have energy to read.

Maybe I need to start knitting something again. Something that will take me a long time so I focus on the rhythm and not the finished product.

What do you do to get your energy back? I am open to suggestions.

Clear eyes and a full heart

Yesterday I got new glasses.

When I put on these glasses, I realized that they represented a lot more to me than I expected.

I first got glasses in high school. I was told I needed them for reading. Sometime between high school and college, I lost them and I never worried about it.

Since I like to measure time by presidential administrations, this was during the end of the Clinton administration.

My eyesight never seemed to be a real issue and I didn’t worry about it.

Sometime after my daughter was born (during the late Obama administration), I noticed my vision wasn’t what it used to be. Bryon showed concern and encouraged me to make an appointment with his eye doctor.

I made the appointment with Bryon’s eye doctor. His eye doctor was very nice. I liked him. And I got the glasses that I needed.

I even went to see him when I was sent home for work for conjunctivitis. My work did not require me to see an outside optometrist but Bryon thought it would be a good idea. Turns out I didn’t have conjunctivitis. I just had dry, red eyes that can happen to nursing mothers due to hormonal changes. He gave me some drops.

After Bryon died, I got the notice in the mail that I was due to an eye exam. But I couldn’t make the appointment.

Bryon had been a patient of this eye doctor since he was seven.

I didn’t know if his eye doctor even knew that Bryon died. Bryon’s death had been in the newspapers but I had no clue if he knew and I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell him.

I could handle talking to people that knew Bryon and knew he died and I could talk about Bryon’s death to people who didn’t know him at all. But I couldn’t be the person to tell someone who had known Bryon since he was a kid that he had died.

Besides, it would be hard to do an eye exam if I was messy crying.

So I avoided the eye doctor.

I threw that notice into a pile of papers that I called “shit I will deal with later”.

Things were fine.

And then I lost my glasses and I did not have a spare.

I tried not to worry about them.

I adapted. At least I thought I did.

But I knew the truth.

I knew I couldn’t put it off.

I am 40 and my eyes are not what they used to be.

For a long time after Bryon’s death, I bounced between the state of existing and the state of surviving.

But it’s time for me to start taking care of myself.

So I went to a different eye doctor.

And now I have my glasses.

My daughter approved of them because they are pink.

And now things are clearer.

Maybe a little too clear.

I recently watched an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the family convinced Marie Barone that she needed glasses. Then she got glasses and she could see so well that she pointed out every physical flaw everyone had.

Well I looked in the mirror and I noticed every tiny flaw on my face.

I think I need a chemical peel. Or, like, 12 chemical peels.

At least a facial.

But now that I am seeing 20/20 again, I realized that this is symbolic of my life. As a transition to the next chapter of my life, things are just so much more clearer now.

Of course, some of that might be the fact that I have spent the last 3 years in deep thought and reflection.

Either way, I am seeing things for what they are.

The “blurriness” of my life has cleared up as I processed what had happened in my life, as I learned to cope with the events, as I realized how I let others projections and attitudes affect me and as I learn how to how I respond to all of these factors.

Now it’s time to look toward the future with a clear vision.

It feels fitting to end this blog post with a quote from one of Bryon’s favorite fictional characters, Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights- “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”.