For you, Mom

If you run two half marathons in 3 weeks, does that mean you can say you ran a marathon? 😉 Yeah I didn’t think so, but it was worth a shot.

Today I ran the half marathon I had intended to all summer. I’ve been training since late May for this, and although I ran a half on August 30th (a PR of 2:32), I really wanted to run today in honor and in memory of Mom, on what should have been her 74th birthday.

I’ve had some bad runs lately and haven’t been feeling great–aching shin around the lump in my leg from my treadmill fall, twinge-y right hamstring, and tender left knee. And emotionally I’ve just been…off. I suppose we all have been though, right? I’ve been thinking all week about the amazing women in my life that are gone, but also the incredible women in my life that I still have. I’ve tried to be a really good friend this week, but also I’ve made an effort to be a good person. I wish it always came naturally, but it doesn’t. So this week I tried to reach out to people who I might not usually and just say “hi” or “what can I do for you” or “thank you.”

So with all those thoughts and feelings running through me, I got up this morning and tried to prepare my head and my body for what I would hope be a decent 13.1 miles. I wore lots of black, including my “You Got This” shirt, and an orange ponytail holder that made me think of Mom. (Orange was her favorite color–her kitchen counters were orange!) I told my husband I may call him in an hour, and if not, he knew where to meet me with extra water and Gatorade.

As I began my run, I first concentrated on how my body was feeling. I started out fairly slow and just kept moving forward. The first half of the run would be similar to the half I did three weeks ago, but by the time I reached mile 6, I was in completely new territory…and I loved it. I’ve driven on the Lapoint Road in Stetson many, many times (I take it nearly every day in the winter) but running it is extremely different. I was able to admire the scenery more than usual, that cool little pond I had never been up close to, that adorable sign with the birds that make me laugh out loud and think of both of my parents. Much of the run on this road was serene and absolutely enjoyable–except of course the corners where there was nowhere to run but on the road and there would always be two cars coming in both directions. Every. Single. Time. BUT, most folks were extremely courteous this Sunday morning and I had few problems.

Once I reached mile 9, my husband was there for fluid refills and to cheer me on. This is where I began my 2.5 mile stretch on the dirt road which I knew would be hell on my feet. Large sections of this road now have this weird roller pattern, so when you drive over it you’re bumping up and down and feeling like your car will shake apart. And running on it is no better. As your foot lands on the gravel, it doesn’t know where to go. My large canoes could feel a bump in the arch of my foot while my toes and heels felt like they were sinking. Other parts of the road had so much gravel that I slid on stones several times–but I didn’t fall!

I could hear my mother’s voice so clearly through the entire second half of the run. All my life I would tell her my worries about my ability to do something–whether it be passing a class or moving to Pennsylvania for graduate school or raising my son or even going for a long run–and her response to me was always the same, “You can do it. No problem!” She had such faith in me which I often envied. But today I thought, “Yes. I can do this. My body and my mind can do this.”

Thankfully, once I was off the dirt road, I only had 1.5 miles to go and it wasn’t horrible. And I suppose it wouldn’t be, because Mom was with me the entire way.

Mom and I with a giant beer at the Roadkill Cafe in Greenville, Maine back in 1995.

As I ran to the finish line (my driveway), my son ran with me the last bit while my husband shot a video. It was a good, strong finish (2:36) with a bit of sweat and a few tears.

Happy birthday, Mom. I so wish you were here to enjoy your coffee and blueberry cupcake.

But maybe you’re in a place where you are celebrated like you should be–with lots of fantastic food (especially ice cream) and an endless supply of good, hot coffee. ❤

I love you so much, Mom. I miss you and your badass self. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. I’m trying to do that for myself now. I think I’m doing ok.

Lack of Appreciation

Do you ever feel like you should be more grateful than you are? Do you ever think, “I know I should appreciate this but…”

Right now my life is ok. Some cool things are happening at work, I’m reading and running a lot, and my family is mostly healthy. My house is still standing, we’re not in the path of a wildfire or hurricane, and we currently do not have a virus that could affect our health for the rest of our lives.

And yet…I’m sad and angry but with a few hours of happiness and contentment thrown in.

This afternoon, my son and I took a walk together and chatted about school, work, history and video games. His dark humor and laugh remind me of my brother so much sometimes that it either takes my breath away, makes me tear up, or brings me joy to see some of Phil alive in my boy.

But once our walk was over, I took another walk alone on our rural road to try and center myself. I just felt so out of sorts today. I can’t focus on much, my right hamstring was tight and achy, and I’ve felt the urge to cry all afternoon and evening.

Thoughts of my mother have been pressing on me all day. As I walked tonight, I felt suffocated by the lack of her presence. I miss her. She would often reassure me when I didn’t think I knew what I was doing as a parent. She would coddle me when I got hurt. She never stopped being my mom, even when I needed to become her parent.

And right now I just really want my mom.

But…I can’t have her.

Hence my long walk trying to sort my shit out and be ok with myself and the world and to find a little peace in nature and this rural life I lead.

Take care of yourselves, y’all. Virtual hugs to you. I hope you’re all at least ok, if not more than ok. I hope you’re well and happy and finding peace wherever and whenever you can.

Channeling My Mom

Seven years ago I ran my first half marathon. It was 12 days before my 40th birthday. I called it Holly’s Half and ran near my home. My husband and then 6-year-old son were my “water boys.” It was really hot for an early June day and my goal was just to finish, preferably under 3 hours. I beat my goal by 3 minutes. It was really difficult and I was completely done by the end and was useless the rest of the day. But I was damn proud of myself.

The last time I truly trained for a half was 5 years ago. I even got up to 12 miles on the treadmill. I didn’t want to run the whole 13.1 on the treadmill because I wanted to do it outside the following week. But a few days later I had pancreatitis and ended up in the hospital.

This spring I decided it was time to try again. Seven years have past, 25 pounds have been gained, 1 brother and 2 parents have died, 1 broken arm, 1 dog bite, husband nearly died, various scrapes and bruises have been formed, and 1 pandemic still coping with. Yet I also got a new job, watched my son grow (and grow and grow!) into a person I’m proud to know and love, read a few thousand books, and most importantly? I gave and received so much love that it’s impossible to measure.

I think I wanted to train for a half marathon again because I needed something to reach for and challenge me. And honestly? I also wanted to lose those 25 pounds but have only lost 12 so far. Oh well!

My goal is to run a half on my mother’s birthday–September 20th. She would have been 74. I wanted to do something for myself but thinking of her and channeling her amazing strength and bad-assery.

Today’s run was supposed to be around 10 miles with a few speed intervals in the middle. I have not run more than a mile since my fiasco on the treadmill last week (I fell off at mile 8 and majorly bruised and scraped my legs and arms and took chunks out of my right hand), so I figured I’d do my best but told my husband he may get a call in an hour to come pick me up. 🙂

I set out with my tunes and water bottle and just trotted for a while. My shin ached at the beginning, but it felt good to move my body. The weather was perfect–breezy, mostly cloudy, in the 60s–a touch of fall in the air. At mile 3, I saw a blue heron. My very first sighting! That completely buoyed my spirits even more. So I ran on and on and turned around at mile five on a road that I had not run on before but look forward to going back to. It was serene and lovely with very few houses.

I took a few walking breaks and as I got closer to my home, I thought about my doctor’s visit this week. He gave the ok to run and I told him I recently ran 10 miles. He said, “Oh! Then you got this! Just 3 more and you’re done.” Then I remembered the pancreatitis and a few times in my life when I didn’t say what I wanted to or did not do what I wanted, all because I planned to say or do them later. Yet that “later” never came. I thought of my mom and the pain she worked through and kept going day after day because that’s who she was.

When I turned onto my road my husband was in my car with a water bottle because he was worried. I gasped out, “Gatorade. I’m gonna keep going.” He raced back to our house and was at our mailbox with Gatorade as I passed. I thanked him, drank, walked for a minute and kept running.

This is me today, just after I finished my second half marathon.

My 11th and 12th miles were pretty slow, both over 13 minutes, but most of the others were pretty decent, and I finished in 2 hours and 33 minutes. The Map My Run app wants me to finish about 15 minutes sooner, and maybe I will if I try this again in 3 weeks. Or maybe I’ll say “no thanks” and be happy I could do it today. Either way, I am once again really damn proud of myself. And I am not nearly as tired as the last time I ran a half! I did laundry today, cleaned the shower, vacuumed, and baked bread. I feel pretty darn good.

That’s my poor bruised leg, my kitty Miso licking my forehead, and my step count. I’ve never seen my steps over 20,000 before!

I expect the upcoming work and school week to be a tough one in our household, but I’m hoping that today will keep me “running high” for a few more days and give me a positive perspective on life, at least for this week. 😉

Take care of yourselves, y’all. One day at a time.

Have you lost it?

Nearly everyone I know has slowly been breaking apart for the past five months. We’re extremely lonely or depressed or scared or frustrated or all of the above. And we’re the lucky ones.

I’ve had several “breaking points” over the past 5 months, but this week I just seem to have broken off a few pieces of myself and have no idea where to look for them. The overall morale of my staff, my colleagues, my friends and my family is bleak at best. I’ve said before how helpless I feel because there seems to be so little I can do for them, but I’ve come to the point where I feel just as helpless and hopeless as they do. I have many good moments, and that’s what they are–moments. Seconds. Tiny tidbits of light and goodness and laughter. And honestly that’s what I try to show everyone. Those smiling pics on social media? I am typically really that happy in that moment. It’s the next minute you don’t want to see. Or the next hour. Might want to wait until the next day.

The past few days have been seesaw days, up and down, light and dark. But my frustration level with my work has been off the charts. I’m so sick of cleaning surfaces and quarantining items and for a few hours I thought some of that would be lessened. But of course there is so little consistency in the library world when it comes to procedures that my little light of hope was dashed and I might have had a mini meltdown in a Zoom meeting filled with Maine librarians. My exhaustion and frustration bubbled over. Me being the “good girl” I am, I apologized and I really didn’t want to offend anyone, but for fuck’s sake! Can we get on the same goddamned page for just once?!? (no pun intended)

*sigh* There. Thanks. I needed that.

And, of course, the school plans are out. The school my son attends will have hybrid learning like many schools in Maine, which includes going to school for 2 half days and remote learning the rest of the week. Just a remote option is not currently available, but I did let them know I’d like that if it ever becomes an option.

Have I been judged by some parents for not homeschooling (or wanting to homeschool) my child? Yup. Am I mad as hell about it? Yup.

If you have the money or opportunity to homeschool your child, kudos for you. I’m happy for you. Really. If others are choosing to send their child to school OR if others have to send their child to school because they work outside the home and their child has already been home THE ENTIRE SUMMER without any contact with other kids except the occasional Discord or video game chat, then let them be, Judge Judy. As my lovely friend said to me this morning, “They can go fuck themselves.”

If you think any decision is simple or easy when it comes to my kid, you’re damn wrong. Don’t you think I’ve thought about all the consequences for both my son and my husband? What about the fact that I work in a public building and see 50 people every day? Don’t you think I’ve thought about THAT?

*insert deep breath here*

The thing is…I’m tired. I’m tired of being afraid, I’m tired of feeling like my head will explode from all the information and plans that change from week to week, I’m tired of wanting to feel numb so I can’t feel all of my feelings.

I know I’m preaching to the choir. I know many of you feel and think all of the same things I do. So what do we do about it? Hell if I know. I’ve done all the shit people tell you to do–exercise, eat well, laugh, talk with friends, etc. I also take an anti-depressant, rage at the universe, and occasionally drink until my brain quiets down.

Since we’re all in this together (which, by the way, I am so damn sick of that phrase), what do YOU do to not go completely insane or sad? Or if you’re already at that point, do you have any thoughts of how to climb out of that hole you’re in? Do you need a hand? I have really long arms, orangutan-length in fact, so just let me know.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the sky near my house tonight. There were dragonflies in the air, too, but you can’t see them so just imagine the magic.

Lightweight

It’s Wednesday night, yet it feels like it should be Friday night. It’s been a horrendously long and stressful few days, and apparently I’m not the only one feeling it. Maybe because of the full moon on Monday? Maybe because we’re waiting to find out what our children’s school days will look like? Who the hell knows? We’re all just damn tired and stressed and so fucking sick of being tired and stressed. Right?!?

Yet, I know I have it good. I have a job, as does my husband. We’re still relatively healthy. My kid is happy some days. This is about all we can hope for right now. But for whatever reason, as soon as I got home tonight, I started searching for the wine. Then I remembered I had all the fixings for a margarita.

My husband was kind enough to cook dinner, so I made my drink and headed out to my porch. Our boy was watching videos about the Declaration of Independence (seriously, this kid is freakin’ awesome), so he was ok not spending any time with me. I sat down on my porch in the warm air but with the loveliest of breezes, opened a magazine and took a few sips. After a bit, I listened to a podcast (Fake Doctors, Real Friends), sipped my margarita some more and put my feet up on the railing. I have not been that relaxed in such a long, long time. My husband came out after a bit to say dinner was ready, but I wasn’t ready to go inside. More time passed and he came back out, but I told him there was no way I was going to stand up (not sure I could) and I intended to stay out there for as long as possible. The good man brought me a bowl of food after that.

My son came out a few minutes later and we chatted and laughed and talked about the upcoming school year, but then with our morbid humor discussed hazmat suits and gas masks because that’s where we’re at. My husband joined us and we laughed and chatted some more while relishing the warm summer evening. We really had a wonderful time, just being together at our home enjoying one another.

Of course then I had to get up so I could go pee and the moment was broken.

Yet afterwards I felt energized. I did the dishes, made my lunches for the next few days, did a load of laundry and took a bath. I finally found that bit of motivation that I’ve been lacking. I even shaved my legs! I think I just needed those few hours to find a way to relax and forget but also spend quality time with my family. It was literally less than 30 minutes, but it was exactly the amount we all needed to become reconnected to one another. It was our version of perfect.

I’m not saying you should drink every night to ease your stress. I, the daughter of a recovering alcoholic, would never say that. It might be ok with you and if it is, then go for it. But both my conscience and my pancreas say it’s not good for me. Plus the level of relaxation I had tonight is not typical for me. I had to let everything else go and not think about work or relationships or the world or even myself. I just had to breathe, read a bit, and listen to others. I had to lose myself for just a little while. And if you can find a way to do that with yoga or meditation, then do it. Hell, if you need a drink or a smoke to relax and let go occasionally, that’s ok too.

We all need to lose ourselves sometimes so we can find our way back again.

Hang in there, friends. I’m thinking of you.

How Can I Help You?

If you run or walk outside a lot in rural areas, you know there’s danger–people not seeing you or purposely trying to hit you with their cars, biting dogs, bears, you get the idea. I’ve had the misfortune to face all of those things. But tonight, as I took a pre-dinner walk to clear my head, I saw a truck pull over on the side of the road up ahead of me. First thought? This guy is going to try and hurt me. But I’ve got my phone, I’m not far from home and I can run. Then I hear a car coming up behind me on the other side and realize this guy is being incredibly courteous and kind. Once the car passes, the truck pulls back on the road and the driver gives me a big smile and wave. I yell, “Thank you!” because seriously, that shit never happens.

I continue my walk and can feel my eyes prickle with tears because I just want to sit down and cry all because of this kind gesture by a neighbor. But why is that? I don’t think people have been horrible to me lately, although there’s certainly judgments thrown around constantly and many by me. When I’m out with a mask, some people look at me oddly or with that frown. If I see you without a mask I know I look at you with that same frown. And it’s all just exhausting, isn’t it? I never thought of myself as being so judgmental before (although maybe I was?), but now I’m just….I’m really awful.

I’ve always had anger issues, but no one knew about them because I ate that anger. Just in the past decade have I been able to scream my anger out or sometimes run it out and occasionally breathe it out. I can (mostly) deal with it. But now? I feel so much anger and disgust and sometimes hatred towards people I never felt anything at all for before. Why do I care? Is it because their actions can hurt me or my family or my friends? Or maybe because they already have?

I read many of my friends’ social media posts and I feel so fucking helpless. I don’t know how to help them. Many of my friends are teachers and when I read how scared and frustrated they are, I just want to hug them and tell them this will work itself out and be ok, but I can’t. I physically am not allowed or able to hug any of them and this will definitely not work itself out. This will not “just go away” any time soon. Especially since no one can talk to one another if they have differing opinions on how to solve this mess. (Although it would be nice if we could all agree that facts are FACTS and not opinions.)

My friends who are parents, especially with little ones, are struggling just as much with all of this. Their posts and shared articles are just as fucking heartbreaking. I hear my friends that have adult children say how grateful they are to not have to deal with the education piece or having to stay at home and care for their child because they just don’t know how they could do it and still work.

Exactly.

How do you do it? Friends have cut their work hours, some have upped their anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds or have finally begun taking them. Some are drinking more, eating more, crying more. (And I’ve done a little bit of all of these things as well as let my kid spend way too many hours in front of a computer.)

So what the hell are we going to do?

I don’t know. I wish I had some amazing piece of wisdom right here, but I don’t. I have sent wine to a few friends, cards to others, and messages or emails to some. If you own a business and want me to buy something, I’ll do my best to do that to help you keep afloat. If you need any of my librarian skills like pointing you in the right direction for forms you need to fill out or reading material to help you relax or what movie will help you cry then I can do that, too. But mostly I just listen. I don’t know what else I can do, but listen to you and truly hear you. I will respond if you want me to, or just nod my head in agreement and virtually hug you.

I do hope that some day, when the world is different but maybe feels a bit safer, I still like the person I’ve become. Right now I’m not so sure. I think at this moment I’m too selfish, self-centered and judgmental to really like who I am. Or maybe that’s the person I’ve become due to all the losses in my life. Either way, this pandemic has become a pivotal moment in our lives and it would be impossible to not be affected by it. I just hope that when all is said and done, I and you, too, will not have regrets about our words and actions towards others, and that we’ll be ok.

Let’s just be ok.

1096 Days

For several days now I’ve had this stomach ache. You know the kind that sits in the center of your belly like a tight knot of worry and dread? After Phil, my big brother, died, I had that stomach ache nearly every weekend for a year. Our family saw him for the last time on a Sunday morning and he died that afternoon. So each weekend afterwards I would relive that day over and over. I would take walks alone so I wouldn’t cry in front of my husband and son. I would stand a quarter of a mile away from my house and sob on the side of the road. It happened so many times that I still tear up occasionally when I walk that hill because my body expects to cry.

And now it’s that day once again. July 23rd. I hate this day. A good friend has a birthday today and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to celebrate with her on this date. My life and my family’s lives were so torn apart that day. And no matter how much I work through the grief and keep putting one foot in front of the other, my life will never, ever be the same. As much love and kindness as I get from my friends and family, there will always be this gap in my life and this bit of unreachable joy because Phil isn’t here to make us laugh or to tell stories or to just be here. To just be.

There’s also this little bit of guilt that I’ve been hanging on to and I don’t know what to do with it. While my brother was in the hospital, his partner and I went to talk to him to basically convince him that it was ok to die. It was ok to say he had enough. Once he made that decision, the bravest thing I’ve ever seen by the way, he couldn’t look me in the face. I held his hand and cried on his bed, then I left. We went back to the room where my sister, mother and doctors were sitting and told him that he was ready to “go.” Then everyone went back to Phil’s bed to say goodbye.

But I didn’t. I told my sister I had said goodbye and had already told him I loved him and it was their turn to have time with him. But why didn’t I go back? Why didn’t I take one more look at him and touch him and say “I love you” one more time?

I remember telling my sister to tell Phil that Dad loved him because our dad didn’t come. He just couldn’t. And I didn’t want to be too selfish and take more time with Phil than the others….but I also think I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to look at me again. I *was* being selfish. I should have gone back into that room one more time, no matter if he could look at me or not. I should have spent every imaginable second I could with him.

But I didn’t.

And I deeply, deeply regret that.

So now I go on. I try to remember the great times we had, the laughs, the stories, the hugs and the so many “I love you”s. I will talk out loud to Phil when I need him and imagine him talking back. Tonight my sister and I will toast our favorite brother and tell those stories and laugh and hug and say “I love you”.

And we will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Sucker-Punched

Out for a morning run,

one foot in front of the other.

Stop to chat with Gene.


“Lost one of our neighbors this morning.

Kidneys shut down. He was only 61.”

Moment of silence.


State our good wishes for the day,

keep on running.

One foot in front of the other.


Making my way up a hill,

leaves cascading down from the trees

tickling my face.


Close my eyes, smiling, enjoying the moment,

a flash of memory of my brother laughing,

recognition of joy.


My breath is gone.

I double over, clutching my body,

pain flowing through my limbs.


Yet I trudge on.

Determined to finish.


My body straightens,

even as the pain in my shoulder grows.

That damn raven digging in.


My legs are heavy now.

No more thinking.

Just one foot in front of the other.

We believe…

I am sure we can all agree that this has been a really, really weird year so far. For many it’s been downright tragic, depressing, or scary. Or maybe a combination of it all. For a few introverts that truly hate to leave their home, it’s been a damn good year so far.

For some folks it’s been an eye-opening year–whether it be confronting their own biases and trying to educate themselves, or maybe watching others deny their prejudices or even embrace them. These biases and beliefs could be about the color of one’s skin, political party, or the sanity of dog owners. We have all watched our country become divided over and over on a variety of issues, but watching us fight over whether or not we should wear a mask to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 seems ridiculous to me.

Science is real. You understand that, right? It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. Does the CDC always have the answers? No, but they can recommend what is best over the research they’ve done with this virus and others. And it’s true they just don’t know everything about the virus, but if it’s POSSIBLE you could hurt or kill someone else by not wearing a mask, then why wouldn’t you wear one?

Please. Explain this to me.

And do NOT tell me that I’m seeing so many people not wearing masks because they have medical problems. That, my friends, is absolute bullshit. I have no doubt that some folks can’t wear a mask due to breathing issues, then try a shield. If you can’t do that, ask for help in getting what you need, or try wearing pool noodles on your head like they do at this German cafe to enforce physical distancing.

But I can guarantee you that most of the people I see without masks are not wearing one because they don’t want to. Simple as that. And if you’re inside a store and not wearing one, you can attempt to stay 6 feet apart, but what if you cough or sneeze and are unaware you have the virus? Did you just send someone to the hospital or maybe to their mother’s funeral? Or maybe their own?

You. Don’t. Know. So why are you taking the chance?

For my family, 2020 has been filled with many ups and downs, but to be completely honest this pandemic wasn’t the worst thing to affect us. When my own husband nearly died one month before our country shut down, by March we were all just happy to be alive and together. My son and I had watched Wal on a ventilator and in a coma, and amazingly he survived. But we also knew that if my husband got (or now gets) COVID-19, he will die. It’s pretty much guaranteed. So we hunkered down together this spring and were (mostly) happy to do so.

Now my husband and I are both working outside the home and we both wear masks wherever we go. Many of you know that we differ in nearly every aspect of our lives, particularly politically, but on this issue? We stand together. We often discuss how best to show folks that wearing a mask is a good thing or a needed thing. Dr. Shah of the Maine CDC has tried many tactics to convince the public.  Aside from the scientific FACTS that support masks are an effective means of containing the spread of COVID-19, one thing Dr. Shah told us was that wearing masks was a kind and compassionate thing to do. My husband scoffed at that because he knew many people just don’t care and they don’t want someone telling them to go spread some kindness. That won’t work.

This week Dr. Shah tried something different. He compared wearing masks to the speed limit on the highway. It’s not about punishing YOU, it’s about the safety of other people. But you know, maybe that’s part of the problem. We are extremely selfish people. No one wants to believe that wearing this item that inconveniences them could possibly help anyone anyway, so they deny it and say it’s infringing on their freedom and quote the 14th amendment–you know the one about not denying life or liberty. But I hate to tell you but the government has some leeway in protecting our health, so as long as the government has justification for some of its restrictions than it’s sufficient.

Look, I’m only writing this because in the past two weeks I’ve had various “discussions” via FB, Messenger, and in-person about the validity of wearing masks and I’m damn tired. I already know I won’t change anyone’s mind, but I might as well say what I feel and know. I could give more arguments and cases about young people with no underlying health conditions that have died like Nick Cordero who was 41, or the fact that people under 40 now make up the majority of COVID-19 cases.

But…none of that matters for some people, and I’m just going to have to face the fact that it will always be that way. Does it break my heart? Yes. Does it piss me off? Yes. Is there much I can do about it? I can thank people around me for wearing a mask. I can speak out about it as much as I can. For my own sanity, I’ll need to start cutting some people out of my life, too.

And I can wear a mask.

Be safe, y’all.

Grief Sucks

I’ve had the great fortune to have some really happy days lately. My last post was about a particularly good run I had. This past week I had a wonderful 47th birthday with my family (physically distancing) and yesterday I had just an incredible day with my son, exploring Fort Knox (this is in Maine, not the one filled with gold in Kentucky) and eating good food and having thought-provoking conversations.

But when I got up today, I could feel grief weighing me down immediately, like it was sitting on my shoulders. Today is my brother’s birthday. Phil should be turning 52 today, not remaining 49.

As I trudged to the kitchen and made my coffee, I glanced at my phone sitting on the counter. “Do I really even want to look at this today?” But I did. The first thing I saw was a Facebook post I created the year before my brother died, wishing him a happy birthday and telling the world how amazing I thought he was and how proud I was to have him as my brother. Then I saw a post my sister wrote today on Phil’s FB wall, telling him how much she misses him and although she’s glad he’s not having to experience the pandemic, wishes he was here for everything else.

That was enough.

I drank my coffee, swallowed any tears that were trying to form, talked with my husband and got dressed to go for a short run. As I laced up my sneakers, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I could feel the sobs all the way in my belly and working their way up. My husband came out to see why the hell was I going to run outside in the heat, but when he saw my face he just came to me and held me and I let it out. But it seemed that once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I finally let my husband go and I was able to say or rather hiccup, that I just had to get outside. It was just a 2 mile run and although it would be bad, I just needed to leave the house. I couldn’t breathe and felt trapped and needed to be someplace with no walls.

It was really 85 degrees when I left with 49% humidity. So not quite this bad.

So for 2.12 miles, I stopped thinking or feeling. I listened to my music and just focused on my task. It was certainly brutal (so much respect for you southeastern U.S. runners!), but it took me out of my brain for a little bit.

Once I showered and stretched, I watched a virtual Drag Queen Story Hour that made me happy for a bit, but then I just sat at my desk, put my head down, and cried some more.

Grief is not just sadness. It’s heavier than that. It affects my physical body, my mind, my heart, my appetite, my world. After almost 3 years since my brother has died, I can say that I do have good days now. With Mom and Dad both dying last year, the number of really good days in the past year I can count on one hand. But the fact I can count any is an incredible thing and gives me hope that I will have many more. But when days like these hit, when you just want to curl into yourself and cry and shut everyone else out, they still hit really hard. I still don’t know whether to embrace them or fend them off, so I do a little of both.

I’m letting the tears come today but also hiding a little bit from my son. We’re still spending some time together and working on a Father’s Day ice cream cake for my husband, but I’m going into my office more or on our porch and just sitting and remembering. We’ll toast Phil this evening like we always do, and we’ll remember him together. But right now I just want to be by myself and re-watch the video of Phil reading to little Briar and hearing Phil laugh and joke. I just want to wallow in my grief and in how much I miss him today.

And every day.