Broken

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started this post. Maybe I shouldn’t write it if I can’t get my thoughts together, but maybe it will help? I don’t know.

My brother, my big brother, my first friend….Phil….died on July 23. To say that I’m heartbroken or to say that my family is devastated does not seem to really say what we’re feeling. I don’t want to speak for them, but any parent who loses a child, whether 2 months old, 14 years or 49…it’s unspeakable, unfathomable. And my brother-in-law lost his partner of nearly a quarter of a century. My brother was the younger of the pair. How does this man, who was with my brother not only throughout the years but through the past few weeks of pain and uncertainty and thankfully with my brother as he took his last breath…how does this man go on without having Phil there to make him laugh every single day?

How do the rest of us?

If you know me well or if you’ve known me for a long time, you know I looked up (literally and figuratively) to my brother. He was a giant in my life, and being 6’6″, a giant in most people’s lives. He was always naughty, like in a Groucho Marx kind of way. He was incredibly kind, especially to his family and friends. He loved us with everything he had and it showed. I don’t think I realized how good he really was until I saw him with my son.  Watching my brother read to my son or play action figures with him or chase my boy with a squirt gun not only made me happy, but it allowed me to watch another person become completely enamored of my big brother and with good reason.

Phil made us all laugh until we cried. He could find humor in nearly every situation, no matter how dark.  He listened. He was never afraid to be himself and encouraged that in others. Hence the photo.

Phil&Brihats

He loved to cook. He loved to try funky foods because he knew he would never travel again and that was how he could “vacation” or experience life to the fullest. His music tastes ranged from Weird Al to Adele to show tunes. His taste in books were as varied as his taste in music. He loved Stephen King and other horror writers, but he enjoyed Liane Moriarty, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and MAD Magazine.

But he was also a writer. A really good one. I have some stories and poems he wrote years ago, including a story he wrote me for one of my birthdays, that portrays himself as a monkey. Which is perfectly fitting because he had a thing for monkeys. He was finally published a few years ago by Forbidden Fiction with some of his gay erotica stories. And before you start judging, you should read some of it. He always said that his erotica (and most others) were really romance but with a bit of nastiness thrown in. Love, not sex, is the true focus of erotica.

Phil was an amazing human being. And I miss him. But even saying that doesn’t sound right. It’s so much more than missing someone. I’ve had this constant ache in my belly since he died. I’m so tired and I feel heavy and even when I think I’m ok, something will trigger a memory and I’m caught off guard and I’ll let out this quick little sob. I try to hold it back, but what’s the point, really?

My brother is in every room of my house. He was here nearly every week for the past decade, either to visit with us or babysit my boy after school or here for family gatherings. He has a pair of slippers here that I bought just for him after my husband and I bought this house. (His size 16 feet were not easy to buy shoes for.)  There’s a box of Splenda in my cupboard for when he came over for a cup of tea. He has his own profile on my Netflix account. He’s everywhere.

And yesterday, we even scattered some of his ashes around the outside of my home. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that, but my boy did. He knew right where Uncle should be. And once we scattered a few of Phil’s ashes, my boy said, “I’m never going to wash my hands again.” We squashed that idea immediately, but I knew exactly what he meant. I didn’t want to wash my hands again, either. In fact, I kept rubbing them together, trying to embed some of my brother into my skin. Later in the day, when I started to wash dishes, I realized what I was doing and pulled my hands from the water like I had been burned. I was so mad at myself. I forgot. I fucking forgot. Rationally I knew I had to wash my hands at some point but did it have to be then? Couldn’t I have tried to hold on longer?

But here’s where everything gets *really* difficult.

Life goes on.

How the hell does that happen? Actually, I’m not even asking how right now, but why? Why does it have to? There’s a big chunk of me missing. That person I used to watch the Oscars with, the relative my boy would look forward to seeing each week, that guy I’d talk books and writing with….fuck.

Easter, all of our birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Phil was here for all of those things.

And now he’s not….and I’m just…..

 

Getting My Shit Together

A few months ago, I read this fantastic book:

getyourshitHave you read it? Or anything by Sarah Knight? I love her. Yes, she swears a lot (hence my attraction to her work) but she also gives great advice. And although I loved her last book more (The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck), this book came at the right time. A time when I was feeling out of control and needed to get a grip. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, though. Maybe I need to read it again?

Last week at the library, we had a fantastic speaker by the name of Janie Downey Maxwell. She has a blog called Organizational Habits where she discusses what one can do to become more organized. Her talk was called “Organizational Zen” and she not only talked about tools to become more organized (planner vs. calendar) but also how one can find a bit of peace while becoming organized.

I’ve been anxious to hear what Janie had to say. I’ve never felt more out of control than I have this past month. Last week I had an appointment with a surgeon (Dr. Huang) to talk about my pancreas. I didn’t fully understand why I was seeing him before my new gastroenterologist. Huang wants to do a CT scan of my pancreas so he can see it when it’s not screaming at me. Totally smart and completely understandable. I may have a cyst or a pseudocyst or possibly something else sitting on the tail of my pancreas. He very subtly mentioned the rare case of pancreatic cancer, but said there’s no reason to worry right now because they don’t know anything yet and I seem fine at the moment.

Huh.

Ok. I wasn’t too horrified…until I left his office. I went to take one of his business cards and realized that not only this doctor, but everyone in this office were surgical oncologists.  Well….fuck. I’m just glad I didn’t know that BEFORE my appointment.

So…between my health issues and attempting to “fix” Mom’s finances, all of my goals for this year have gone right down the tubes. Our spending moratorium hasn’t gone well since the end of April. We’ve helped my mom out a bit, then had an unexpected car repair and dentist appointment, so out came the credit card from my little hiding place. My goal of running a half marathon again this year is going to go on the back burner. This body just isn’t having it.

After listening to Janie, I decided to finally put forward something I should have done months ago. I often feel overwhelmed by my range of responsibilities, don’t you? I was afraid to write everything down because if I saw it all in black and white then this feeling of drowning would overcome me and a breakdown would be inevitable.

Yet…I’m doing all of it anyway, so why not have a slightly better handle on this crazy thing called life?

Meet my new pencil and planner:

planner

It is time to yank up my big girl panties and stop freaking out and just do it for fuck’s sake. Write it all down.  Every appointment I take my mother to, every appointment I take my son to, and yes, even every appointment I need to take myself to–write it down. The dates to pay my mother’s bills, the dates to pay my bills, the dates to clean my mother’s house–write them down. When to run, when to walk, when to breathe—write it all the fuck down.

But I want to write down the fun stuff, too. The hikes in Acadia National Park I plan to do with my son, the ice cream we plan to eat, the anniversary dinner with my husband, the mini vacation in Bar Harbor, the beach day with friends, my friend’s wedding in New Hampshire. I have to write all of that down, too, because honestly? All that other stuff–the doctor visits, the cleaning, the bill paying–that is what life is really made of.  That’s the shit we *have* to do, but doing the fun stuff is how we are able to carry on and do everything else in life that’s difficult and messy and just plain awful. And I have to be able to see those fun things in my planner. I have to know that all of this hard stuff is not *just* what life is. It has to be more than that, right?

It has to.

 

 

 

The Good, The Bad and the Exhausted

It’s been a rough few months for my family. My mother’s health and mind are declining faster than I’m able to cope with. My father’s memory is fading, too. My brother was in the hospital for a month and I ended up in the hospital for four days for pancreatitis. We were all feeling helpless and at times, hopeless.

But within those two months of ickiness, there was Mother’s Day, my dad’s birthday, and my birthday. My son finished fourth grade, his baseball season ended (hopefully his last season ever) and he grew another half inch.  I lost 5 pounds (although I don’t recommend pancreatitis as a way to lose weight). My husband, son and I all read a bunch of great books during this time, had several amazing sushi dinners at our favorite restaurantsocks, Ichiban, and we finally saw the movie, Wonder Woman.

When the shit started to hit the fan in May, I was finally running more after this long winter. I was up to 8 mile runs on Sundays. It was a great stress reliever, but it was also nice to have mileage goals in mind again. I had hoped to be at 12 miles by now, but my body had other plans for me. So this morning, after my first full cup of coffee in a month, I put on my favorite socks and went for my first run in three weeks.

I’m not gonna lie. It was really difficult. The first half wasn’t bad, but I started to lose energy just after mile one. Had to take walking breaks on the way back and finished the 5K with nothing left in me. Just thinking about the power of my sock capes flying behind me was the only thing that pushed me through that last quarter mile. The heat and humidity were a factor, too, I’m sure.  I nearly passed out twice after I got home (saw spots, light headed) and my energy didn’t really return until the evening.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very good at treating myself well. But I really need to. I need to learn to be good to myself. I need to learn to let things go, to not stress over situations that I cannot control right now, or possibly ever. I need to listen to my body. I need to admit that it’s ok I don’t run as much as I want to and it’s ok I can’t eat whatever I want right now. It’s sucky, but it’s really ok.

Now that summer has finally arrived here in Maine, I’m trying to have a more positive outlook on at least the next few months. If I can’t run as much, I’m hoping to take more walks in the sunshine and try a little more weight lifting. If I can’t eat ice cream every day (which is a crime), I’ll try to find yummy but healthier options. I’ll try to spend more time with all of my family, bring out photos to remind all of us of good times in the past and continue to plan good times for our future.

I will try to live in the moment. I will try to not wish away the weeks, wanting the painful bits to hurry up then go away. I know the pain will pass and I can get to the other side eventually. I just need to live through it, learn through it and move on. As my dad always says, “You can’t live more than one day at a time, right?”

Right.

So here’s to you and me, living in the moment during this summer of hope. Let the good times roll!

Sitting in your own shit

Warning: This blog entry has an excessive amount of cuss words. If that type of thing offends you, you might want to skip this post.

I fucking hate being in this sandwich generation. I hate that I don’t make enough money to buy a decent car. I despise the fact that I gained weight this winter. I really fucking hate that my brother is sick and sometimes I just hate the whole fucked up world. For more than a day, I’d like to stop putting on that stupid ass fake smile that everyone thinks is real.

You might be saying, “Well, yes, life is hard but there are so many other people worse off than you are.”  That is absolutely true. But you know what, ass hat? I don’t give a flying fuck right now.  I don’t want to look on the fucking bright side. I JUST WANT TO BE MISERABLE AND SIT IT MY OWN GODDAMNED SHIT, OK?!?  IS THAT ALRIGHT WITH YOU?!?

Fuck.

Alright. Here’s the deal. I, Holly Williams, am giving YOU, my lovely readers, permission to have a pity party. Right now. Go ahead! Do it. It’s completely fine.  You do not have to be positive and chipper and cheery all the time. It’s ok to feel shitty and hate what’s going in your life. It’s ok to cry and scream and bitch about it. It’s even ok to let it all out on social media. (Just expect people to unfollow you for a bit because not everyone can listen to that shit 24/7.)

Life is really fucking hard sometimes. It is. I know it can be filled with beauty and joy and unicorns dancing with woodchucks, but it can also be filled with disaster and grief and pure suckage.  It is completely acceptable to admit that life isn’t good right now.  When someone asks you, “How are you?” go ahead and tell them the truth. Tell them that life is shitty right now but thanks for asking. Or grunt. I’m personally a fun of grunting. Sometimes talking takes too much fucking energy.

It’s ok that your life isn’t wonderful and it’s ok to feel bad about it. No one’s life is wonderful all the time, no matter what bullshit they post on Facebook.  At some point you will probably have to find a way to fix whatever is wrong or learn how to handle whatever issue or problem you may have, and you will. But right now, today, you don’t have to.

Go ahead and sit in your shit, wiggle your ass in it and feel it squishing between your butt cheeks until the smell is too fucking awful to breathe. Then, and only then, when you can’t stand yourself anymore, do you pick yourself up, clean yourself off, and deal with whatever shit storm you’re in.

You’ll be able to handle it now. You’ve wallowed and cried and screamed and stunk up the joint and now you’re ready to move on, let it go or suck it up. You can do this. You can. Really.

So go.  Clean that shit up and start smelling like daisies again. Put on a smile if you have it, and if you don’t? Who gives a fuck. Just be yourself and do your best to deal with what life flings at you.

 

 

 

Double Digits

It’s been one decade since my son was born. Ten years. On many days, it seems like just yesterday I was changing his diapers and  yearning for an entire night of sleep. Most of the time, though, it feels like the baby days were a lifetime ago. And I’m totally ok with that.

I didn’t do so well with the newborn/infant stage. Like many parents, I had no idea what I was doing. Although to be honest? I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ve learned to fake it. I love my boy with everything I have and I try to listen to him and encourage him to make good choices and I try to be a decent role model. I think that’s the best I can do.

As my son gets older, each new year brings my new favorite age. At one, he started walking. At age four, we could start having conversations. At five he was reading to me and telling me stories. At seven I realized what a funny kid he was  (and is) and what a class clown he had become. At nine, his YouTube channel debut made me just as proud as it made him. And now at ten? Who knows what the year will bring. But I know how happy I am at the human being he’s becoming.

These past few days as we’ve driven home, the boy has read Garfield and Peanuts comics to me until we both laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. And in the past month, we’ve had the best discussions about gender roles and stereotypes and about how fantastic it was to finally see a gay boy in a graphic novel for middle schoolers. (Thank you, Raina Telgemeier!!) I feel like I’m pretty liberal in my political and social views on the world, but my son’s ideas have challenged them. He’s of the belief that anyone really can do anything. If you’re a boy and want to join the Girl Scouts, you should. If you’re a girl and want to join the Boy Scouts, you should do that. He doesn’t see anything “wrong” or even “weird” for either of those scenarios.  If you’re transgender? Great! If you’re not? Great! It doesn’t matter to him. Just do what you want to. Accept everyone, no matter what. Don’t tolerate, accept. And I find that absolutely awesome.

I think my boy will find the world a challenging place and it often won’t bend the way he wants it to. But hopefully in the future he can change what he’s able to and go with the flow when he needs to.

For right now though? For right now I hope he can continue to just be himself–the gamer, the tall kid, the sports player, the reader, the clown, the actor, the Youtuber, the creator of zombie peep massacre dioramas, the cat lover, the writer–and be happy with who he is and who he is becoming. Because I certainly am.

Happy 10th birthday, my beautiful boy!

Lost and Found

If I’ve learned anything this past week, it’s that Alzheimer’s Disease slowly eats away one’s independence, dignity, eventually humanity. It not only destroys the individual, but it injurs and scars the caregiver and the family.

Last week ended with me losing my mother in a hospital (she can seriously boogie with that walker!) and also discovering at least 6 months worth of unopened mail in her home, including financial matters that should have been tended to. And this week began with me visiting the bank and crying at the desk of a bank employee.

Today I told more people about my mother’s condition. I told people that may only be on the periphery of her life, but ones that need to know why she doesn’t seem like her typical reliable self. My mother’s reputation has been in jeopardy for the past year, and maybe that doesn’t matter to some. But I know if my mother was in her right mind, it would matter to her. She’s been a respected citizen of our little town for nearly 50 years. She’s always been responsible. She paid her bills on time, mostly obeyed the speed limit and every single person I talk to says, “She’s such a sweet woman!” I don’t want anyone thinking less of her because I didn’t pay attention to that growing pile of mail in her living room. If I had done my job, I would have helped her open that shit at least two months ago.

mailBut I didn’t. I didn’t want to. I was afraid. In the back of my mind, I knew my own responsibilities for Mom’s care would increase. I knew I would have to have uncomfortable conversations with Mom about finances–her last bit of true freedom. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do anything until….well….until I did.  I had to stop putting it off and just ask Mom if we could organize her mail a bit. But something so simple is still not easy for me to do. To this day, I still dread the thought of my mother being angry with me. She put fear in all her children, and although I can’t speak for my siblings, she put the fear of disappointing her, in me.

So now when I need to ask my mother permission to do something, like open her mail, I’m waiting for my mother to bite back, to tell me “no” and that she has everything under control. But she never says that. Not anymore. She knows she no longer has everything under control.  And as much as it pains me to say it, I guess that’s my job now.

My wrinkles in time

Do you have those little crinkly lines around your eyes? How about the parentheses that show where your cheeks begin? Maybe the horizontal lines on your forehead?

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Or maybe you’re like me and have the small vertical lines in between your eyebrows?  I really hate those things. I think it shows how skeptical and pissed off I’ve been all these years. You know how your mother used to say, “Don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way!” How come she didn’t say, “If you keep scrunching your forehead when you think someone’s being an asshole, you’ll eventually have angry lines on your face FOREVER!”  I really wish Mom had told me that. Would it have prevented me from making that same face?  Probably not.

I have the parentheses on my face, too. They don’t bother me quite so much, until I notice my face in a mirror or window. If I’m not smiling, they are *very* prominent. My face is already long and those wrinkles make it look even longer. If I had an overbite, I’d look like a horse. But how did I get those wrinkles? Are they really from smiling and laughing? Huh. So I guess they’re like my happy badges. They show my happiness, my joy, my good days from the years that I’ve lived. I may not have all the memories, but my face still does. I kind of like that.

One evening last year, my nine-year-old son asked what I was putting on my face. I told him it was anti-wrinkle cream. “Mom, it’s not working,” he said. I couldn’t help but laugh when he said it, but gave him the stink eye, too. I know it’s a losing battle, but I don’t think I’m ready to give up on it yet. Although the laugh lines don’t bother me, those damn worry lines, well….worry me! I’m already a bit of a bitch, but I don’t want my face to always show it, you know? I’m hoping I can accept it at some point soon, but I’m just not there yet.

I don’t think accepting your body at any age is very easy. Or it never has been for me. When I was fat, I hated myself. When I lost weight, I hated I still had flab and without surgery, always would. Now that my body is aging and I don’t have the energy I once did or my skin is getting wrinkly or I can’t remember everything I wish I could, then I just get angry or frustrated. I don’t hate myself any longer (most of the time anyways) but I often wish I could have a younger body for just a while. Well, maybe not even that.

Instead I wish I could whisper into the ear of my 10-year-old self and say, “You’re ok. Keep running and biking and playing basketball, even when you don’t think you can anymore. Love your body because it’s strong and young and flexible. Don’t worry about other people or what they think. Just take care of yourself. And try not to scrunch your forehead too much. People will always make you angry with their stupidity. Instead of scowling, just arch your eyebrow at them or look at them cross-eyed. Don’t worry about what Mom said. They won’t stick! But the angry look you make with your face will. Trust me on that one.”