38

I have been thinking about my 38th birthday for the past 5 years. Ever since I lost my sister the day after my 32nd birthday. Here I am, on the cusp of my 37th birthday and it becomes more and more ingrained in my mind.

I have been thinking about my 38th birthday for the past 5 years. Ever since I lost my sister the day after my 32nd birthday. Here I am, on the cusp of my 37th birthday and it becomes more and more ingrained in my mind.

My sisters last year of life was her 37th year, pretty much. Her last birthday was on August 20th 2014, when she turned 38 and she passed away October 1st 2014. She didn’t even get 2 months of 38. My birthday is September 30th.

So hear I am, about to start my 37th year, the year that was her last. So, I look at my life and my mind goes to that place, the inevitable place of, “And if this was my last year, would I be satisfied with my life?”

That was one thing about my sister Mercy. She lived the fuck out of her life, because she NEVER took for granted the time she was here. She wasn’t supposed to make it past a few months old, so she lived accordingly. But the question I have for myself is…am I living accordingly?

I was born relatively healthy, especially in comparison to her.  But I have always waged a deep internal battle of dissatisfaction with who I am. That, however, is not to say that I haven’t worked on this actively and consciously.  I’ve been trying to turn this self-esteem boat around since I was 25.

My 25th year was one of my hardest, until I hit 2014 that is…but at 25 my world was flipped and I had to make a very hard choice. The choice was that being alone was better then being with someone that was destroying me. To love myself, more then the person I thought I loved. It seems really easy now, but I remember how devastating it felt at the time. But literally, walking away from that mess was the BEST decision I have made in my life. It was the first time I was my own hero, or in the words of Pretty Woman, I rescued myself.

And since then it has been a slow and steady learning and reckoning. I have learned SO MUCH about myself and my life. But to be honest, I was still never 100% happy with myself, I was still traversing rocky territory…and then I lost my mom and sister.

It threw me and it threw me hard. I didn’t revert to any of my past mistakes but I had a whole new mess to contend with and reconcile. I have walked slowly through it watching it go from unbearable to just heartbreaking to lonely. I wasn’t in a great place before I lost them, now I feel like I’m in another not so great place with even more baggage.

But what about the work? The learning and the self introspection? I can’t discount it, I know so much now about loss and pain but on the flip side I know the value of celebrating the fact that you get to live another day. Do I always remember that? No, I’m still imperfect, flawed and very human. You don’t walk away triumphant from loss one magical day, you walk away and realize you have to learn how to traverse LOTS of new, scary terrain.

When I first lost them I thought I’d reach a moment of clarity. I’d wake up one day and it would all make sense. It doesn’t work like that. The gaps in my heart will never fill, the pain I feel when I see their pictures will never go away. And I will never stop wishing that I could just talk to them one more time.

But that takes me back to 37. To this upcoming year of life I am about to live. Though I have done the studying and have been seeking knowledge and endless guidance. I must admit, there is something I haven’t been doing much of.  The work. The hard labor it would take to really begin to confront my own terrible, harsh, self opinion.

The work looks like me being disciplined with myself about eating better or going to the gym. It looks like me playing my guitar and taking voice lessons again. It looks like me doing a lot of things I currently don’t do. I have a lot of reasons and excuses why i don’t do these things. Some days life just feels to hard or draining or sad to do anything more then sit and spend another evening on my phone.

But, the question is do I want to turn 28 next year and feel exactly as I do now? Exactly as I have felt for many, many years. Maybe before I was thinner or had less bills but I have never been fully happy or accepting of who I am as a person. I love so many other people in my life unconditionally, but I cannot offer myself this same kindness. I don’t do things that make my heart happy often enough. I’m not doing the work. I even know what the goals are now, but I am still not pursuing them.

This is my New Years Eve, this is actually way more important to me then Jan 1st ever could be. Did my sister squander 37? No, my sisters crazy ass up and moved to West Virginia at 37 because that’s what my sister did! She did whatever her heart called her to do no matter how ‘effing crazy all of us thought she was. That is how she LIVED her life. She L-I-V-E-D it.  

Don’t read this as me being a fatalist and thinking my life won’t extend past 38. Though, it is not my choice when I leave this earth, I fully know that. But I just feel this is my personal call to action. This is my brain saying, “You have done so much already but now it’s time to take it all the way”.

I wanted to write this as a private journal entry to myself at first. Why? Because I feel like I have said I wanted to change so many times, and I never have. So if you don’t call your shot…no one can see you fail. But I’m calling my shot right now. This is going to be so hard, I know it is and that’s why I have been avoiding it.

But I’m not going to squander 37 or 38 or however long I am given. I’m tired of it. I want to push to be the person I truly feel I am on the inside and the person I was meant to be. I’m not even 100% sure who that is, but I know I sure as hell won’t find out unless I actually do the work.

I feel like I am dragging myself through life right now. Life is living me. And though many amazing things that have happened to me, I still feel like I’m not enough. This comes out in a lot of ways. My appearance, my actions and even more importantly my non-actions. All the things I don’t do because I fear judgement or failure.

I vow to change, and I promise you 37 will look and feel unlike any other year that came before it.

Grief doesn’t define me, but it does

August is hard.

September is hard.

December is hard

March is hard.

Lets just say 12/12 months of the year are hard.

I hardly ever share my feelings about losing my sister or mother. Maybe about the situations that have arisen because of losing them, but hardly ever directly about not having them in my life anymore. I will say X is frustrating me long before I will tell you I’m feeling sad and missing one or both of them.

Because I don’t want to seem dramatic, or stuck in the past… what can you say anyway to make me feel better? Let me just not say anything, let me just sit in my sadness and cry by myself, or maybe to Adam, maybe.

There is a hole in my heart the size of my sister and a hole in my safety the size of my mother.  The loss of each was painful in different ways. And if I spoke enough about it, you might think I miss my sister MORE then my mother, but that’s not the case. The losses were just different. So, so different.

I have really been noticing how hard it is for me to be happy now. How impossible it is to sustain happiness for long periods of time. Happiness is always slipping through my fingers like sand. The more I reflect on this, the more I realize that there is just a massive part of me that is empty, that’s where my sister is in my heart.

But I never speak the words and if I do, I downplay the pain. I act like a trooper. “Look at me, getting through my life!” but on the inside, I’m just crying. I want to roll up in a little ball and wish my sister back here with me, and that actually happens more then anyone knows.

I lost my best friend on earth. The person that knew me best. The person that understood me best. The person that knew everything. Words cannot express that loss. Nothing I type or say could truly feel like it was equal to what I am feeling.

I try so hard to live despite this pain. To try to make my life as full and rich as magical as I can. I do my best to try because SHE can’t live her life anymore. And I have made so many moves I should be so proud of, I try to be proud I really do, but my heart is still incomplete.

And there is a part in me, that just wants my sister back. My heart want’s something I literally can never have, but the feeling is relentless.

Though I have embraced some of the things I lost in growing up (i.e. Disney) there are things that I still avoid because they are drenched in her memory. I pulled myself out of a scene I still love, I can’t listen to music I love so much because every time I go back to it, it feels like i am opening a wound and torturing my soul. Because the person that understood this stuff MOST is not here anymore.

You cannot sit in sadness because it will drown you. It will suck any color from your life and leave you with black and white memories and wishes that can never come true. But maybe I need to sit in it more. Maybe I need to say it more and stop acting like I am ok, stop worrying about making others uncomfortable with my grief.

The innocuous question, “How many siblings do you have?” is literally the question I hate most in life. HOW do I answer that?!

“I have 3 but one passed away”

“I have 2 alive but my sister closest to me passed away”

“One sister lives in O.C. the other lives up north…”

You can see the discomfort on someones face that second you mention death. The, “Oh shit I didn’t mean to bring that up” look. All in good spirit and not in a rude way. But I hate making people feel that way. I hate even dealing with any of this. But then if I just answer, “I have 3 sisters” that feels like a lie too. Like I’m PRETENDING everything is ok.

If people knew how often something made me sad because it reminded me of her, they’d probably think I was a depressed emo girl. They’d probably think I need to get over it. So I say nothing and shove it all down.

I am TRYING to rebuild that lost part of me. I don’t know how though But please believe I am trying SO hard. I’m not doing a good job tbh. Because I just want my sister back, even in this moment.

I don’t know if I will ever be whole again.

Unlocking the lost parts of myself

I was not fully looking forward to our family trip to Sequoia and I almost didn’t go. There were personal reasons and then more topical reasons.

It had been about 15 years since the last time I had went. Prior to that we went almost every year when I was growing up. But a lot has changed in 15 or so years and I just didn’t think I had it in me to “rough it” in nature.

I use the term “rough it” loosely because we stay in cabins that have electricity and beds, we only camped once or twice, that I can remember. You do have to walk to a central shower and bathroom but it’s far from sleeping on the ground in a tent. My niece’s friend Sam likened it to, “glamping”, it’s not quiet that plush…but somewhere in-between.

Over the few days I was there though, it was like this dormant part of me woke up. “OH, I used to love nature. I used to love running around and exploring!” I had completely forgot that that part of me even existed. It was like I forgot about that girl completely, but the big beautiful trees and endless vistas brought her back to me.

I felt SO insignificant out there in the vast world of nature. I was SO small, tiny, miniscule! I can’t even verbalize how unimportant I felt. And it was amazing…because it was a reminder of how big the world is. And, though my problems and issues sometimes feel insurmountable they are even tinier then I am against the backdrop of nature. That’s such a comforting feeling.

Sometimes it feels like life is crashing around me. One crazy happening after another but the forest kind of just side steps the chaos. You see broken or burned trees scattered about the floor but it doesn’t stop everything around it from being beautiful.

Sequoia trees cannot begin to grow without fire. If the ground becomes overcrowded they can’t thrive. So they require something so destructive to live, enter fire. In our lives we say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” but maybe the hard things in life are pushing us to thrive too.

We walked through Crystal Cave which was formed, in simple terms, by running dripping water. Water finding weaknesses in marble and working at it for millions of years formed an amazing cave. Sometimes we feel like the small steps we take don’t mean anything yet these tiny drops of water formed a massive, beautiful cavern.

The place I didn’t really much want to go back to, became a place I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to go on more trails, more hikes, soak in more of the forest. After the first day I stopped caring that my phone had absolutely no service. I was happy about it. It really forced me to disconnect and connect with mother nature and my old self again.

I leave you with a Shakespeare quote our tour guide at Crystal Cavern told us:

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, 
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

Big Magic

My mom passed away the week before her birthday, so, today is her birthday. It is never as bad as the day she passed away, but I’m still sad. It makes me wish I could still celebrate her birthday with her…the things you take for granted when you don’t know any better.

I’ve been feeling very disconnected and jaded. I couldn’t even finish books when I was devouring them before, because I was so indifferent. You just feel like you’ve heard the same thing 200 times. Especially with self help books… I couldn’t even finish one. I had 5 audible credits to use I and I kept returning every book I bought. Even if I started out liking it…eventually I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

One book had been nagging at me to hear it. Oddly enough it was a book I had already read when it first came out, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Even with that book I was hard set on not buying it…because it obviously didn’t work the first time. (Say that in a sarcastic tone to mimic the voice in my mind.)

But, all week last week it persisted. So finally I was like, “FINE, you win brain…I’ll use a credit on the book I already read and OWN.” (It is currently in a box like half my shit…which is really annoying but that’s a tale for another time.)

So I listened, and instantly I remembered why I loved it so much the first time. It was just everything I needed to hear, again. Maybe even more so now. I’m not going to sit here and review the book point by point, what really matters is that it got me to write again. My last post was a product of reading that book, and realizing that my creative self is dying to get out. So, I promised myself I’d work on being creative more. Using that long dormant part of my brain.

A few things happened, including today. (I got recognized, twice, at work for my efforts.) That give me the sense that I am on the right path. So I’m going to follow that curiosity. I don’t really know what that means, because there are several creative things I love doing…but I just need to do something to feed my soul…it’s starving.

4 Years

(I wrote this yesterday, 3/6/18, I didn’t realize it didn’t post after I finished..)

Yesterday was 4 years since my mom died, it was also a Monday. Why does it matter that yesterday was a Monday? Because of office symbiosis and what happens on Monday.

“How was your weekend?”

“How are you doing? Anything new?”

These are innocuous and polite questions..but on a day like yesterday they feel painful. I am not close enough to my co-workers to tell them what the day is. Some, I actually am close enough to but then how will they respond? What can they say that will make it any better?

There’s something that Brene Brown talks about called, “Smash and Grab”, to paraphrase, it’s basically when simple conversation is happening and someone throws something super heavy in the mix to get attention. “I got a flat tire this weekend.” “Well, my dog died this weekend, so yeah.” Even though I wouldn’t personally phrase it like that…I would still feel like that was exactly what I was doing. “How are you?” “I’m sad because my mom passed away 4 years ago today.” It just doesn’t seem like the thing to throw on someone Monday morning.

So I didn’t say a word about it, to anyone all day long. It doesn’t have that I sub-consciously push it down into oblivion without even trying. I had fooled myself into thinking that I was handling the day very well, I was getting BETTER at it. Look at me laughing and smiling…I can do this.

You know when you’re hung over and you can feel your stomach is upset? The next day you’re no longer drunk but your stomach is still turning and you do everything to stop it…but eventually you have to barf your brains out in order to feel better? I do that with my emotions.

The second I came home and laid in bed…I could feel it creeping up. First it came out as anger. I picked a fight with my boyfriend cause he wouldn’t get off his phone. I walked out and slammed the door. Then I went into the other room, laid down in the dark and began to bawl my eyes out. Fetal positon, ugly crying uncontrollably.

Eventually he found me and realized that the issue went far deeper then his tech obsession. Even with him I didn’t want to remind him what day it was. What can he say to make it better? He remembered without me telling him though.

I have made huge strides in my life in the last 4 years, in some areas. But without a moment of pause I would rewind everything positive in my life to go back to my life 4 years and a few months ago. I would give it all up to have my mom and sister back. I would work a job I hate, live at home, all of it.

Death is a film that covers your entire life, forever. It’s the lens from which you see the world after you lose people you love. Or maybe, that’s just me. Even the most beautiful things in my life are covered in a thin, barely visible film of loss and regret. I just want a time machine, is that too much to ask?

But, I walk through the film coated world anyway. I keep trudging along trying to find myself, new or old. My spirit and heart still feel so severed and my joy always feels so slippery. I am so desperate to keep it, I tend to chase it away.

I’m sad and depressed at the moment. I’m glad I can at least say that here because I can hardly say that to anyone else. But, this is a hard moment…they come and go. I push myself towards joy as much as I can anyway. And overall I will say that I have way more good days then bad.

In a way, writing this is just another way to throw up. It’s not only getting this out…but just writing in general has been calling me. All my creative outlets call to me and I never answer. I have I lot of excuses why I don’t. I want to change that. Something in me says that’s the path to true healing…who knows.

But today, I am sad and heartbroken. I miss my mom so much…

Dreaming of you

Last night after our Cinco de Mayo dinner my boyfriend and I were channel surfing and happened across Selena. As a young Mexican girl that movie and Selena were instant cult worship-worthy. My parents used to watch Don Francisco (even though my dad doesn’t speak spanish…..) and they were way into Selena before she was cool. (I’m joking there, but they did like her way before she blew up.)

I have been sick was a supposed “viral throat infection” since Tuesday. I say supposed because I think the doc diagnosed me wrong. I wake up every morning super congested and feeling like doodoo. This morning was no exception. So I woke up around 9am and was able to fall back asleep around 10am. Then I had a dream with my sister Mercy.

In 2014 my mom and sister passed away within 6 months of each other. My mother passed away in March a week before her birthday, my sister passed away in October the day after my own birthday. This fact shapes a lot of who I am, and my current “journey”. It also is a source a depression, sadness (and still) upheaval in my life. You’re going to hear about them a lot. I’m much better then I was, but I’m still not “ok”. I may never be “ok”.

I have 3 older sisters but my sister Mercy (yes that’s her real name) was closest to me in age and by far the only true best friend I have ever had. (I’m the youngest in the family)  My sister was 38 when she passed away, she was born with a congenital heart defect and had many open heart surgeries. The doctors said she’d live 6 months so…I guess 38 years is damn good.

See that is what I’m supposed to say. “We were lucky to have her as long as we did.” “I’m lucky I even got to know her” “She’s at peace now and now sick” All true, but fuck that shit man…I lost my BEST FRIEND. Just writing that has me crying my eyes out. This shit isn’t a Hallmark card. My advice when dealing with people that have lost someone is to say “I am here for you, to listen to you”, “I love you”. DON’T give me the above statements. Hell maybe it’s just me…maybe I’m the only one that can’t stomach the “They’re in a better place” shit. Mind you, I BELIEVE THAT, wholeheartedly, but it doesn’t change the fact that I want my sister HERE with me, living my life with me. I want to text her and call her and send her funny meme’s. I want to talk about Total Divas with her and tell her all I’ve done and been up to. AND I CAN’T. I can, I talk to air, but she can’t respond to me.

Wow, I really derailed this post. But all of this is actually related. Sorry, I literally don’t tell anyone else the stuff above besides my boyfriend. Because I feel like I can’t…

So yes, I had a dream with her. I don’t remember the beginning clearly. I know I was talking to her and dumping out makeup bags. I just know at one point she showed me a video and it was of us putting gas in her car. I think it was when we were still going out. In the video I’m acting silly and just generally super happy. But then she says oh I think there’s something else at the end. Then the camera flips and its my sister in NYC. She’s like at a souvenir store goofing off trying on silly hats. Then I wake up from the dream.

My sister visited a lot of places but as far as I remember NYC wasn’t one of them. My interpretation of this dream… 1. she knows I miss her. I am dead serious last night before I went to bed I thought to myself, “I haven’t had a dream with them in awhile.”. So, she came to visit. Also, with her being in NYC I think she’s trying to tell me she’s still alive exploring. Because my sister went A LOT of different places in her life. She was a free spirit…I’m trying to be like her but it’s hard.

Now we circle back to the title, “Dreaming of you” by Selena. See…it all kind of made sense.