Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Week of Feeling

I woke up Wednesday morning after a busy evening the night before of watching election results pour in. These days I can often find the political situation of our country stressful and exhausting. I am a vocal non-supporter of the current occupant of the White House, and I have no shame in saying it out loud.

Wednesday would have been like any other day, except that after my shower, as I sat down to eat breakfast and peruse Facebook, I was immediately inundated with news of the devastating mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. I saw coverage of a father waiting for word of his son, whose phone was in the bar. And later, I saw the tragic news conference where this father tearfully informed all that his son was confirmed dead. His raw grief in that moment hit me right where my own still-raw grief sits.

Then there was the news of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (a personal hero) having a fall in her office and breaking three ribs. Being a non-supporter of the current administration, I don't want it having yet another Supreme Court pick. RBG needs to hold on until we can get this clown posse out of D.C.

So perhaps I went into Wednesday a little more anxious than usual. And it has persisted.

I'm not anxious to panic-attack levels. Fortunately, I haven't had a panic attack in a while now, thanks to medication, and, perhaps, my own self-awareness about how to fend them off. But I have been anxious this week, and it leaks out of me in the weirdest ways. It's being a little bit harsher with my students, a little bit less patient while driving, and, of course, a lot more introverted and hermit-like. Hard to be anxious when reading a book on the couch with a cat on my lap.

Then the fires started.

California is no stranger to wild fires these days. I follow all of them in the news when they happen, because it breaks my heart to see my beautiful home state burn. But the Camp Fire in Butte County is particularly terrible for me--Paradise, the town destroyed, is a short distance from Chico, where I attended university. I lived up that way for five very important years of my life. While I doubt I'd live there now, it holds a very special place in my heart, and my two dearest and longest-running adult friendships--Sarah and Summer--both began there.

So watching Paradise burn has been stressful. It has been painful to hear of the destruction of the historic Honey Run Covered Bridge, a point of local pride. I used to drive up Skyway to Paradise whenever I was feeling stressed. It was a gorgeous, relaxing drive, and knowing that Paradise is all but gone is heartbreaking.

To say I need a break right now is an understatement.

Fortunately, I'm getting one. I'm on Day One of a three-day weekend, and the coming week is not only shortened by a day, each day is a half-day for the kids. While I have to work full days (and two of those days are parent-teacher conferences for the first trimester), I also get a lot of non-contact time in which I can cross a lot of things off my to-do list. New seating plans. Print out a new set of grade book sheets for the new term. Organize some things around my classroom. I'll be able to play Keane through my Promethian Board and get down to work.

After that, I get a whole week for Thanksgiving. I'm not looking forward to the holiday itself this year--though Dad and I have plans to eat with some friends of his, we will both be feeling the loss of Mom especially keenly that day. They say the firsts without a loved one are the worst. They're absolutely right.

So I look for ways to take care of myself. Today, that was cleaning--scrubbing the shower, mopping the floors, bleaching down the kitchen counters. Casa Meg is sparkling after several hours of work, and tonight I've got candles lit and a comfy couch waiting for me. I have fun plans with Sarah tomorrow, and plans to see Dad on Monday. Little by little, I cut into the stress and anxiety, the best I can.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Autumn

It seemed rather sudden, but one day, the daily high wasn't over 95 degrees, and then, there was even a tiny bit of rain. Now, we are hovering at an average high of 80-85, with cool nights and daytime breezes.

Autumn is here.

I've always loved this time of year. Mom did, too. A recurring theme of our conversations at this time of year was, "I love this cooler weather!" and "I feel like making soup." We shared a deep dislike of the hotter weather, and relished the time we could open our windows and let fall into our homes.

I suppose maybe that's why this past week, in particular, has been one of high emotion. Mom loved this time of year so very much, and now she's not here to enjoy it. I'm glad she's not suffering anymore, but damn, I wish she had gotten more time. I wish cancer had never happened to her. I wish, I wish, I wish.

If wishes were fishes, and all of that.

I'm doing my best to enjoy autumn for both of us. I have a vanilla bourbon candle going and I'm making potato soup. My windows are wide open and I put out my favorite fall decorations. I happily step on dried leaves on the ground, relishing the crunch they make. Yet with ever stomp, every batch of soup, every glance up at the tree across from my parking spot, which is on fire with fall color, I miss my mom.

I'm told that the firsts are the hardest, that it gets better year to year--if not better, than at least less overwhelming. On a day-to-day basis, I'm actually quite fine. Perhaps I'm a little more easily distracted, a little more introverted. But I'm okay. Work keeps me so busy I can barely process how much I miss her...but the evenings aren't always so easy.

Dad and I still hear from people who tell us they miss her, and her smile. How good and kind she was. It's comforting to know we're not alone in this. I recently sold some of my Etsy goods at the Lincoln Woman's Club home tour sale--something I did a year ago, with Mom helping me out. She was a member, and her friends hoped I'd come again this year. Mary, a good friend of Mom's, looked at a picture I had of Mom on my table at the sale. "You have no idea how much I miss her," she said, with a sad smile.

"Oh, I have some idea," I replied, with the same sad smile.

"Of course you do..." said Mary, giving my arm a squeeze.

One step forward, then another. We're closing in four months since she died--it seems like a long time, and then it seems like yesterday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

One Year

A few weeks after Mom died, I found myself reading Us Against You by Fredrick Backman. If you haven't read his works, start with A Man Called Ove and work your way through from there. Mom and I read that one, as well as Britt-Marie Was Here, My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry, and Beartown, which Us Against You is a sequel to.

Backman is wonderful. Of course, I'm reading his works translated into English, but there is still so much charm and wittiness in his writing. It reads quickly, and there are moments of humor followed by moments that tear your heart open. Beartown and Us Against You are a bit less quirky and humor-filled than his other works, but still very, very readable and easy to get lost in.

But I digress. The point of this post is that Mom never got to read Us Against You. I mentioned having ordered a copy to her before she died, thinking she would eventually have her turn to read it--when she was feeling better. But she didn't feel better. And so it goes.

So I found myself reading it, a few weeks after, and one evening, I read the passage pictured below and it took my breath away.


It was like Backman had preemptively read my mind and written that line just for me.

What wouldn't I give for one more year? I miss my mom so terribly sometimes, and three months out, it still feels unreal that she's gone. How in the world is she gone?

She loved Fall, and I always have, too. I miss idly discussing how glad we are to see cooler temps and turning leaves.

One more year with her is what I got, from diagnosis/surgery to her death. And yet still, I wanted more. Another year. Another. I'm still reeling that I didn't get that. When I read this, it was like a gut-punch. What would a daughter give to have one more year with her mom?

"You're a tough little broad," she told me, two days before she died. Her way of reminding me that I could survive losing her. But I'd still give anything for one more year.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Natural Order

I colored my hair this morning--nothing drastic, just a slightly red-tinged brunette by Garnier to hide those first few pesky grays and to even out my naturally ashy roots with the richer tones of the rest of my hair.

There is nothing remarkable about coloring my hair...except that I bought the box in June and am only now getting around to doing it.

June threw everything off the tracks, and it occurred to me just now that I'm only starting to get the train up and running again.

Grief is strange.

At any rate, my hair looks good.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Ka-Pow

A few weeks after Mom died, I finally signed up for kickboxing classes, which I'd been mulling over for a while.

Four or five years ago, I took some classes through a Groupon deal, but never committed to a membership. It's expensive, etc. etc. But now I'm quite a bit more financially stable, so after my five intro classes, I bit the bullet and signed up for a one-year membership. It's spendy, but I love it.


I'm going to the Roseville iLoveKickboxing gym. If you want to be a trained fighter, this isn't what you're looking for. This is pure workout, and pure fun, at that. You do get taught proper form, but the whole point here is to work out, which is exactly what I want. I need--pardon the pun, which is very much intended--a kick in the butt with my workouts. My running has completely fallen by the wayside, thanks to a hot, fire-ridden California summer in which even just going for a long walk was unhealthy. I have enough weight equipment at home to do some pretty awesome workouts, but I also have a very comfy couch. A few days a week, I can make myself lift...but I also need something that gets me out of the house, and something that is directed by someone else.

 Every workout is an hour long. The first fifteen minutes are warm-up...though "warm-up" might be a bit to soft-sounding. We run laps around the mat, do Burpees, squats and squat jumps, lunges, V-ups, planks, push-up holds, Mountain Climbers, push-ups, and more. So much more. It is fifteen minutes of pure hell. Within a minute or so, I'm dripping sweat. (Let it also be mentioned that they happily help people find any modifications so that each individual gets a good workout without doing something their body is ready for--for example, I'm not able to do full Burpees right now, and no one bats an eye when I modify them or just do some heavy-duty squats instead.)

After a quick break for water and to mop up our faces (never, ever leave the towel at home, because you WILL need it), we do some stretching for a couple minutes, and then it's time to strap on the gloves.


Then it's six fast-paced, three-minute rounds of punching and kicking. Twenty minutes of kicking and punching the snot out of your bag, and feeling all of the stress and angst leave your body.

Let's face it, I've got a lot of that these days.

The thing is, I'm okay. I really am. I get through days at work with nary a tear. I function just fine. But I'm tired. Every day, I'm exhausted, and I know it's the grief and shock of losing Mom. It seems like it's been so long, but in reality, it's just approaching ten weeks. Two-and-a-half months. And the month leading up to her death was stressful enough to give all of us some shock.

So the jab-cross and the left hooks and the roundhouse kicks go a long way to letting some of that exhaustion and tension leave my body. I can almost visualize it leaving me and making the bag rock and teeter while I sweat and grunt my way through each round. I get so much satisfaction in feeling my muscles working, in feeling the sweat drip down my face and neck. The people who lead the classes shout encouragement and give boxing-glove high-fives. The environment is completely supportive and helpful. If I need help, I get it, with a smile.

I've been aiming for twice a week (and the occasional weekend visit if I have the time/energy), and it's been a great thing. The gym is about 15-20 minutes from my home, so after stopping in to feed my dudes, I'm able to dash over there, get my workout, and come home to shower, eat dinner, and collapse on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

Kickboxing makes me feel strong, and fierce. It's the perfect antidote for my grief right now.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Forty

Forty is an octagonal number, and the atomic number of zirconium.

It is a unique number (in the negative) at which the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales correspond.

There were 40 days and 40 nights of rain in the Biblical flood.

Johnny Cash recorded "Forty Shades of Green," about, of course, Ireland.

Forty winks is a short nap.

Forty weeks is the average term of human gestation.

There are 40 spaces in the traditional Monopoly game board.

And forty is the first birthday in my life that I celebrate without Mom. So my celebration this year is quiet, not because I feel I ought to for Mom's sake (she'd hate that), or because I feel it's inappropriate to celebrate so soon after her death (she'd hate that even more). Rather, it's because I haven't had the energy to plan anything big and fabulous. I've been channeling what energy I do have into planning for the new school year, and helping Dad sort through Mom's things, and taking care of my most immediate needs for rest, and, yes, some solitude. School starts this week, and with it, the busy days.

So today, I am forty. Forty years old, forty years young, or just meet me right here, at forty. I work at an amazing school doing something I love, I own a home, and I am surrounded by family and friends who love and support me (including, of course, Da Boyz).

Life rolls forward.


Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Hole

This last month without Mom has been a series of ups and downs. I'm learning a lot about grief and how absolutely strange it is.

I guess the best way to describe it is that it's like having a hole in me. A gaping hole that once was filled--with love, friendship, a mother-daughter bond. The hole was carved out when Mom died, and that part of me is missing now. It won't come back.

Having a hole carved out like that is shocking, and painful. It took my breath away and left me desperately trying to refill it...only to find that you can't refill that hole. It's there now. Like a broken vase, you can glue it back together, but it will never be the same as it was before.

I will never be the same.

That's not to say that I won't be alright. I will be--I am--alright. I'm even finding laughter and joy and beauty, even while that hole aches. The edges are still raw, taking their time to heal. This isn't a wound that just goes away. The edges will scab over, and new skin will grow over it. But the hole will remain. You can't replace a Mom, your biggest cheerleader, your life-long best friend.

So I'm learning to live with the new me. The me with a hole. Never entirely the same as I was before Mom died. It's not that I'm more sad, or angrier, or more serious. I'm just...different. I'm missing a piece. It takes some getting used to.

So I take it one day, one step at a time. The pain lessens, the shock dissipates.

The hole, however, is permanent.