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.

Michelle Branch at the El Rey

As I’ve mentioned I’m a huge music fan. One of my favorite hobbies is seeing my favorite artists live. I touched upon that in my post, “My thoughts on Manchester”. Music means A LOT to me.

Michelle Branch at the El Rey 7/25/17

Michelle was probably the first artist I was ever completely obsessed with. I know she wasn’t the first singer-songwriter but she was the first one that really caught my attention. I’d never seen a female, my own age, write their own songs, sing and play guitar.

I remember being in high school and wanting to buy a guitar SO BAD after Michelle came on the scene. But I never did, not until over 10 years later. She was also the first artist I ever saw live. I remember I was just in awe of her. I saw her at the House of Blues on Sunset when she was touring for “Hotel Paper”. Everything about that experience was a novelty. “I’m going to HOLLYWOOD to a CLUB to SEE my favorite artist!!! Wow!” This was long before the smart phone, so the memory just lives in my brain.

When I saw her at the EL Rey in Los Angeles she was still super talented, amazing and had me in awe. I was such a different person when I last saw her on so many levels. I couldn’t have even imagined all the twist and turns I’d be in for in life. So the juxtapositon of those two versions of myself (old and current) was really eye opening for me.

In my own musical pursuits I have been trying to get back to the mental space of my youth (i.e. grade school). Before all the major hurts and doubts that gave me my, “art scars”. But the strange thing is that seeing her live REMINDED me why I fell in love with all of it in the first place. WHY I wanted to do it so bad so long ago. The clarity in that got really lost and muddled in adulthood. But seeing her again transported me back to my young 20-something self and it all became a little clearer.

Seeing her took me back into that same place I was at the House of Blues. It was like I remembered the primary reason why I wanted to create. I love how she can express her innermost feelings through song. That’s what I love about music as a whole. But this was the first person I saw, that I really admired, do it live and I think that’s why it was so powerful for me, then and now. As I wrote on Instagram it was a complete, “Simba, remember who you are..” moment. Except the voice was telling me, “Remember….!”

mufasa

I’ve never truly pursued music because of fear. My anxieties are endless but my desire to express this part of me is endless as well. My inclination to follow this path doesn’t go away.  It’s been with me as long as I can remember and no matter how much I try to ignore it, it persists. Maybe this reminder will finally help me get my ass in gear.

It calls me….

Have you ever been able to do something but had the inability to show others you could in fact do that something?  So much so that you actually start doubting you can really do it? “No”? “Yes”? “What the hell are you talking about”?

I’ve mentioned before how I have two voices in my head that constantly battle each other. One says, “We got this!” the other says, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?! STOP IT!” Guess who always wins. But when I’m alone, the loud voice shuts up and I sing freely.

I grew up on Disney songs, my first CD was The Little Mermaid soundtrack, then Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Pocahontas..you get the picture. And I practiced singing them non-stop. No one ever said I was good though. i thought I sounded alright… but no one ever said it. Then bullies, adolescence fast forward and my singing became this thing I only did in my car, an empty house or a hotel room shower.

I’ve taken vocal lessons slightly over a year now. And I’ve tried to learn several different songs with varying degrees of sort of success. I could never walk in there and “strut my stuff”. I started to believe I lacked stuff TO strut.

Do you know HOW MANY TIMES I told myself, “I’m going to ask to sing, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Literally I’d think about this all week, be driving to class and freak the fuck out and not say a word about it. The thing is I could sing “A Whole New World” damn good even as a kid when the movie came out. Once my ex best friend accused me of lip-syncing when I completely wasn’t (I was 10…). Out of all the Disney songs I love that one and Mulan’s, “Reflection” (movie version) are probably the ones I do best.

But I never had the balls to step into class and attempt these songs. Because HELLO these are Disney songs. That’s not just singing Taylor Swift that SINGING. If I couldn’t even do a Taylor song what business did I have walking in there attempting a Disney song? BTW, this is my internal monologue you are now viewing. Brutal huh?

I hadn’t seen Moana because when it came out I had JUST started my new job and Adam was in Europe and I was too stressed out to do anything. I am obsessed with the water I knew I would instantly love it, I don’t know why I avoided it so long.

A week before I saw the movie (Which was about 2 weeks ago), so 3 weeks ago, something made me listen to the title track, “How far I’ll go”. I had heard clips of it but never actually listened. I was OBSESSED instantly. It hit me like, “Part of your world” had hit me so so many years ago. I listened to it over and over and sang it over and over. Literally that day I first heard it I sang it the entire way home. And I thought I was doing a pretty good job. But of course my brain would not allow for such thoughts to stay in my head long. “You sound good because no one can hear you, you suck”.

I saw the movie the new week, instantly obsessed again. The story just hit me like those old school Disney movies had. (TLM, BATB…). Shortly after I ended up alone in my house. A big struggle for me has been stage fright and letting people hear me. Even videoing myself is super hard for me. I get nervous even with THAT. But I kept trying to get comfortable with it. I took one that sounded ok..and sent it to my BF Adam, the only person I really trust with this…somewhat. lol

Then I did something insane, insane to me, I posted that video on instagram. It wasn’t my best, but it was almost like I had to face that fear. Of letting people hear me and NOT being perfect. Just letting myself heard, period. That was my only goal with it. The world did not end, I did not fall apart. And even though 2 weeks later my knee-jerk reaction is to “Delete that!” I wont let myself based on principal. If I can’t show this side of myself I will never be happy.

So as I said, countless, endless, pretty much every time I went to class I thought about trying one of those Disney classics…and backed down. But yesterday I decided I was going to try it. Well not a classic but, “How far I’ll go”. My regular teacher isn’t there but her sub is super nice too. I even printed out the words. The funny thing is the first thing my teacher told me when I walked in, “Maybe we should work on two songs, do another one too.” Oh universe, you are HILARIOUS. So I suggested, “How far I’ll go” and busted out the lyrics I already had printed out.

Then I did it, I was nervous as hell and wasn’t my best, but I wasn’t my worst either. I navigated that song way better then any other song I had attempted in the last year. So we kept working on different elements and I tried it again and again. The final time she was genuinely surprised and said I had done so well. That I had all of the notes I just had to work on my projection. But that I did awesome and that I ,”Kept surprising her”.

Do you know how long I have waited for someone to tell me I really could do this? That it wasn’t so made up thing I could only do in my head. No, I really can sing that song and I can probably sing all the other ones well too. But just that moment of validation, unaided validation. I cried on the way home. I have waited over 20 years for that moment. For someone to say, “You CAN do this.” Honestly, words can’t even describe it.

“One day I’ll know
How far I’ll go”