In Limbo

Two weeks ago, I underwent exploratory surgery to identify why I continually get pancreatitis. The first time I had it was 7 years ago, at a time when I was running more than I am now, was thinner and rarely drank alcohol. I was hospitalized for it then, and again two years later. The third time was in March of 2020. I refused to go to the hospital because I knew what was wrong with me, COVID had just hit the U.S. and my husband had just been released from the hospital after being in a coma and on a ventilator. There was no way in hell I was going to leave my family. I sipped broth and Gatorade and water for 2 weeks, had blood drawn nearly every day during that time until my doctor said I could eat a smidgen.

But since then, I’ve had minor bouts of pancreatitis. I could feel the pain coming on and then I’d stop eating for a few days and eventually it would go away. I was tired of living that way, so my doc referred me to the Portland Gastroenterology Center. There are a few specialists there, surgeons in particular, who are kick-ass and are the only ones in the state who do a few things they do. After blood tests and scans, they decided I should have an endoscopic ultrasound where they can get a better look (and sample) of the cysts I have on the tail of my pancreas.

And that’s what they did on January 3rd. It was an outpatient procedure, no biggie, and I went home a few hours afterwards. They did say that 10% of patients develop pancreatitis afterwards, and I joked that I needed to lose 5 pounds anyway, so no worries!

If only I could have eaten those words. I did, indeed, contract pancreatitis, and lost 7 pounds. I finally started to feel better nearly 10 days after the procedure and was able to eat regular meals…for 2 days. Then one night I became tremendously ill for an hour, slept, and was in pain for another few days and ate little. I *think* I’m back on track as of today. I even went for a run on my treadmill, the first run since New Year’s Day. It was very slow and a bit painful, but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

Throughout these past two weeks, I started to get my test results. Do you know of MyChart? Many hospitals use it as an online portal and patients have access to all of the notes from the nurses and doctors, as well as the test results. If you read all of what is available to you, you’re getting your results before your doctor interprets them for you. This, my friends, can be dangerous for your mental health.

I read all of my results and, of course, did my own research of what everything meant. Thankfully, the first thing I read was NO CANCER. Yay! Then I read bits about my cysts probably being mucinous cysts and what does that mean? I sent one of the reports that my PCP didn’t get to him and asked him to explain some of it. I already had my interpretation–the cysts can cause pancreatic cancer if not taken care of. Maybe not now, but within the next decade. My PCP admitted that this was not his specialty, but he had the same interpretation. Then he told me to NOT panic and bug the shit out of my gastro doctors.

And I did.

My surgeon, Dr. Rolshud, seems to be a lovely person. We played phone tag one day and finally he explained that he was waiting for one more test to see if I was a high-risk individual for getting pancreatic cancer. (We won’t get those results for at least another week or two.) He did say, though, that because of my history of pancreatitis at such a young age (see what I said about him being lovely?!?), I am more than likely high-risk.

What does all of this mean? It means that if my results come back high-risk, he will remove the tail of my pancreas (distal pancreatectomy). He says there is no question about the surgery if that’s what the test results show. If it comes back low-risk, we have a discussion and figure out what’s best.

I have questions. My first instinct is to remove the tail of the pancreas. My grandfather died from pancreatic cancer, as did some of dearest friends’ parents. I know what happens and it’s certainly not my first choice of how to die. (Although I suppose we don’t usually get a choice, do we?) But will I still be able to get cancer in the rest of my pancreas? And my research showed that more than likely they’ll have to remove my spleen–which is a whole other ball of wax! I have a friend and colleague that doesn’t have a spleen and she has to be extremely careful about everything because she’s immunocompromised. (Your spleen is a huge part of your immune system, but you can live without it.)

What about running? I started to do more research today and some people stop running because it’s not good for their pancreas–yet others do fine. And the recovery? Oy. It’s a 6-8 week recovery process. Sometimes people develop diabetes because the rest of their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Others have to take enzymes (like supplements) forever because they continuously have diarrhea otherwise. After surgery, sometimes you can have stomach leakage.

Oh. My. God.

But…I don’t want to have cancer. I realize this doesn’t stop it from other areas of my body, but maybe we could stop it in one place? I also don’t want to have pancreatitis episodes for the rest of my life. The pain is exhausting and draining and infuriating. Typically, I don’t know what triggered it and then I beat myself up because I figure it’s my fault somehow. After surgery, I’m sure I’ll have to live on a low-fat diet forever and possibly give up any kind of alcohol, but that’s ok. I’ll whine about it plenty, but you’re used to that, aren’t you? 😉

For now, I wait. I try to eat healthy, small meals, and hopefully I can keep up my running routine. I’ll try to throw in more yoga and try to be good to myself. Since the procedure, I’ve definitely become a bit more needy for hugs and love, and long for comfort from both of my parents. Although in this type of situation, I can imagine the worry on both of their faces, then hear their reassurance that all would be well. ❤

Here’s hoping 2022 will look brighter in the upcoming months. Now go eat some ice cream for me!

Just Me

There was a lot of hope for 2021–vaccines, life going back to normal, I was training for a marathon, and my family was just grateful that my husband survived his sickness and came out of a coma in February of 2020.

Some of what we hoped for happened–we got the vaccines, life got better. Then the variants came and so many more people have died and so many people refuse vaccines and life will always be different. I was able to fly to a conference in Nevada and to see a dear friend in Kentucky in the fall, but now many flights are canceled around the globe due to COVID and quarantine times. I had a stress fracture and stopped training for a marathon but was able to run again later in the year. My husband had a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th and has had several surgeries since. Things got better, then worse. Two steps forward and life looked good, then another setback. Like Anne Lamott says in her book Dusk Night Dawn, “It’s like tucking an octopus into bed at night: new arms keep popping out.”

Now a new year is coming. 2022 is nearly here. I honestly haven’t talked to anyone who is hopeful about it. Everyone is exhausted and burnt out and just tries to get through each day without losing their shit.

We have to find something to look forward to. SOMETHING. As I’ve said many times before, I usually love the new year. I like clean slates, fresh starts, new beginnings, and every other cliche you can think of. Sometimes I think of a new year as a New You (or rather new me). I often have resolutions, but they’re really more like goals. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t reach them, but I try. I’ll survive if they don’t come to fruition.

I’m going to try again to train for a marathon, although I can’t say I’m super positive about it. My body has hurt a lot lately and I’m mostly running to maintain some kind of fitness level until I can figure out what’s what. If I can’t train right away, I’ll work on that 15 pounds I want/need to lose (depending on the moment). And keep going to therapy to deal with that incessant want/need to lose the 15 pounds.

These are things, though, that are just part of my current life–running, losing weight, trying to be healthy. My real goal for 2022? I really, really want to do something new each month. I’ve wanted to LEARN something new each month before, but that doesn’t always happen. That can still be included, but I want to DO something I’ve never done every month. Just once a month. Sometimes it may just be making a new dessert because I just don’t have the money or resources to do what I’d like. But other times?

Here’s a short list of activities I’d like to do in 2022 that seem feasible:

  1. Try out a sensory deprivation tank at Float 207.
  2. Watch all the films that are nominated for Best Picture with my son and watch the Oscars on March 27th with him. Make pizza or nachos with him, too. I suppose I want to try and recreate what my brother and I used to do (although I think I only watched every film for the Oscars once).
  3. Zip line
  4. Get a monthly massage (I suppose this isn’t really trying something new yet making time to take care of myself seems new. I’ve had so few massages in my life but when I do, I always think “why don’t I do this more?!?”)
  5. Find something to be grateful for each day. This is a tough one for me. It shouldn’t be but sometimes I am so Eeyore-like that I can’t get out of my own way, you know?
  6. Get my passport!
  7. Visit new places, especially state parks
  8. Run somewhere new. I’d like to run in a new place each month, even just a new trail or a different road. Maybe that can be my running goal for the year if the marathon doesn’t work out.
  9. Ride on a snowmobile

I have other pursuits, but many I might not be able to do. I’d like to work on my writing, come up with a few goals. Maybe write a few poems again. I’m not sure about that yet, but I do know that writing often brings me joy…or sometimes relief, like a deep breath that I didn’t know I needed. I’d also like to organize and digitize my photos. I have so many pictures of my own and from my parents and it seems pretty overwhelming, although I think it’s the emotional piece that is what seems insurmountable. Sometimes I can face grief head on, and other times I just avoid situations that make me remember. Like so many other things in life, it just depends on the day.

My family and I have joked and said “2022 is our year!” Then we immediately roll our eyes and knock on wood and tell each other to not say that anymore since we said that about 2019, 2020 AND 2021 and look how those friggin’ years turned out! Perhaps our resolution or goal for 2022 should just be to survive. It’s something that many were not able to do in 2021.

Maybe surviving and thriving? I don’t know, friends. I just don’t know anymore.

Nonetheless, I will keep shooting for my “new activity” each month and if that starts to feel like too much, I’ll just shoot for reading a new book each month. That one, as long as I’m living, I know I can achieve.

Good luck to all of you. Be safe. I’d love to hear your goals and resolutions and wishes for the future.

Happy New Year and may you feel loved and appreciated in 2022.

Dad’s Day

My “long” run today was more of a trudge. It was a warm and sunny 36 degrees, but the wind was gusting at 30mph and cut right through my clothes. I took breaths through my scarf because my chest started to hurt from the cold. I wanted to do 5 miles and since this was going to be a rough one, I let my mind wander as much as possible to distract me from the wind and the heavy legs. I thought of the visit I had yesterday with a few of my lovely friends and how it truly lifted my spirits. I thought of the upcoming family Christmas party and how wonderful it will be to host it again since we couldn’t get together last year. Then I realized I hadn’t invited my stepmom yet…which led me to thoughts of my dad.

Today is December 12th. On this day in 1987, my father took his last drink. He had been a drinker his whole life, and looking back, he figured he was an alcoholic by the age of 15. His grandparents often gave him sips or actual drinks of beer from the time he was just a toddler. Eventually the addiction destroyed many of his relationships, including his marriage to my mother. He was such a different person when he drank.

This photo of my parents showed Dad in his favorite chair, wearing his typical outfit of a white t-shirt and suspenders. Looks like he was grooving to the music on the headphones. I’m pretty sure he was tipsy in this picture, but I could be wrong. Usually when he started drinking, he was ok. Sometimes fun-loving, a good time. But in the later years, he became angry and violent and it was a shit show.

But on this day in 1987, that all changed. I found out who my father really was. And he was the most incredibly kind man, who loved to laugh and loved his family fiercely. He spent the next 30 years of his life trying to make amends to those he hurt while drinking. Even on his deathbed, he regretted so many of his decisions and thought he had not done enough to apologize. But that wasn’t true. I believe he went above and beyond to reform, to admit wrong doing and to apologize. We tried to reassure him of this fact as he lay dying, and I truly hope he heard and believed us.

I don’t want this to be a sad post today. This is to celebrate my father and his courage and hard work to make his life better. While I thought of him on my run, I thought maybe of visiting his grave. But I don’t really feel him there. Not usually. Instead, I thought of the conversations we had on our Sunday visits during the last year of his life. While I trudged along on the dirt road, I thought of all the times Dad called to ask how the road was to see if he should drive to my house that way or the long way. Or the stories he told about that exact road and how when my parents were married, they got stuck on that road a few times while visiting my grandmother.

I just thought about Dad most of the day. Were there tears? Of course. But I also laughed out loud, thinking about my Papa and his silliness. I miss him. Tremendously. And I’m so, so proud of him.

I love you, Dad. ❤

Back in a Flash

I hate you, Facebook Memories.

I began my morning and thought I’d check in on Facebook before I started work. What comes up? The year 2016 in photos–the last full year I had my brother. He was there in my memories, pics of our Halloween tour of the local winery. Other photos of me where I looked so fucking happy…some I know weren’t real smiles, but others showed genuine happiness. I look at that Holly and want to scream at her. “Tell Phil every single thing you’ve ever wanted to! Go and see him each day. Take time off and take your boy along and just be with Phil. Do nothing and everything with him.”

I miss him. I miss my brother so damn much.

Typically, I love this time of year but everything is still tinged with sadness. And mornings like these? It’s hard to function. It’s difficult to not just say, “Fuck it. I’m not going to work today.” I know I could legitimately do that, but my mother’s voice is telling me to just go to work and you’ll feel better. My own inner voice is also saying, “Don’t let your staff and patrons down. Just go and you’ll be ok.”

So I went.

I went about my day, doing whatever needed to be done–working on reports, paying bills, answering emails. I still felt like I was in a fog, but it was manageable. Then I went to make a cup of tea, something I rarely do. But I was freezing and needed something warm and there sat a box of Earl Grey tea on top of the fridge at work. It’s been there for months, but today I really saw it…and thought of Phil. This was one of his favorite teas. I picked up the box, started to cry and whispered, “You’re everywhere today, aren’t you?”

If only he was. If only I could talk to my big brother, ask him questions I know he’d have answers for, or at least have a joke for them. I wish he could see his nephew and realize that he’d be able to see him eye to eye now. I’d love to hear them laugh together and share some dirty joke or discuss Star Wars films. I just…I just wish he was here.

You know, I’ve been desperate over the past few months to get down to a particular weight. I’ve obsessively counted calories, added a few extra miles to my long runs, and lifted weights. But absolutely nothing happened. I actually gained another 5 pounds instead. (Of course, I now realize I wasn’t counting some calories accurately, but that’s another story.) As I was telling my therapist about my weight dilemma, she asked why that weight. Why this arbitrary number? I told her that I know I feel good at that weight–it’s a little more than when I was running A LOT and when people thought I was sick because they thought I looked too thin. But it’s a weight where I felt good in my body…and the weight I was at when Phil died.

After I said those words to my therapist, my body became very still. I looked at her and let out a sob. I covered my mouth and shook my head. It was such an epiphany, an a-ha moment, and a gut-wrenching grief-inducing realization.

I think I’ve been trying to find my way back to a time when my brother was here and my parents were here, and although life was still difficult and complicated, it just wasn’t quite so lonely or sad.

But I know I can’t do that. Rationally, I know that no matter how much weight I lose, my family will not come back. Of course I know that. Will that stop me from trying to lose weight? Nope. Do I still want to find a way to be happy in this body of mine? Yes. Will losing the weight do that? Probably not. But my pants will fit better.

And hopefully my therapist can help me with the rest of it.

Friends, if you’re out there and you’re missing someone so much that you just want to turn back time and have one more conversation or hug or “I love you,” please know that I hear you. I understand and I wish for that, too. I might not be the one you want to talk with, but I’m here and I’ll listen.

Take care, friends.

Voices of the Past

Holidays can be tough for those missing their family–either if they’re no longer near you or are no longer on this planet. Last week was the 5th Thanksgiving without my brother and the third without either of my parents. Typically, my little family of three spends Thanksgiving by ourselves and my brother used to come over to spend it with us, while his partner slept during the day (he worked nights). After my brother died, we always brought my mom over to spend the day with us. Now, though, we invite my brother’s partner to have dinner with us and it remains the four of us. On Thursday we toasted our lost family with our drinks and chatted about all of them throughout the day. It wasn’t a horrible day.

That night, my son and I sat down to watch a movie, and we got on the subject of my mother. My boy was comparing the grandmother on the Garfield Thanksgiving special to his grammy, my mom. We started to talk about Mom’s laugh and I realized that I couldn’t remember it. At all. I could picture her laughing, like this photo when she tried out our Bowflex for the first time back in 2001 and it nearly catapulted her backwards. But every time I pictured Mom laughing, it was silent. I just could not imagine what her laugh sounded like. I started to tear up, grasping at my memories of her, trying to find something that would trigger that laugh in my head. I could hear her voice, I could smell her perfume, even feel her hands in mine. But her laughter was gone.

When my teenage son saw my eyes and the look on my face, he tried to imitate his grandmother’s laugh. He could clearly hear it and was doing everything he could to share that with me. After a couple of failed attempts, he found it. He created a laugh that was enough like hers that I could hear it again. I closed my eyes and listened.

I cried a little and thanked my son. He was so relieved–not only because I didn’t break down into sobs, but also that he could find a way to share Mom with me, to share *his* memories of his grandmother with me. If anything could warm the cockles of my heart, it was that!

Unfortunately, as I write this, I still can’t remember her laugh. I’m hoping someone has a video with a clear laugh track of Mom on it. I hear my brother’s laughter nearly every time my son laughs, and I can easily hear my father’s deep, gruff chuckle. But not my mother’s. So until I find that video, I’ll have to consult my boy whenever I need to hear Mom’s laughter. I envy his gift.

If you do have the opportunity to record your loved ones’ voices or laughter, I suggest you do it (and have others do it to you). It may sound like a morbid activity, but if something like hearing your parents’ laugh can make your day, then wouldn’t you want that to listen to after they’re gone?

Have a good week, friends. Find laughter wherever and whenever you can. ❤

Finding Community

Let me begin with thanking so many of you for sending your good thoughts, vibes and prayers my family’s way last week. My husband got through his heart surgery and everything looks great. Two stents were placed in his arteries instead of one, since they found a clogged artery they didn’t know about, but now blood is actually getting to a majority of his heart. His energy has skyrocketed and I think he may be on his way back to the living. Now he just needs to clean up his act by eating right and exercising. Not everyone gets a second chance, so hopefully with encouragement he’ll be ok and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

And now…back to running. 😉

Sundays are typically my long run days. I was up to 10 miles a few weeks ago, but ratcheted it down to just 4, then have slowly been building back up again. Today was a 10K (6.2 miles) day, and although I felt good and ready when I left my house, the feeling didn’t last. I had a hot flash around mile 1, which is a weird thing to have when you’re already sweating. I felt completely depleted by the end of mile 2. I almost called my husband to ask him to bring me a banana or maybe drive me back home, but then in my head I heard my friend Heather say, “I take walking breaks. It’s really ok!” So I stopped beating myself up and walked for a few minutes and sipped from my electrolyte drink that tasted awful. But the combo gave me a bit of energy and I pushed on. By 2.5 miles, I started to feel better. I was tremendously slow and walked up nearly every hill (except the giant hill I tried to run up and then realized I was so hunched over that I could touch the ground), but the run was finally feeling good.

I was ok with being slow today, but I wanted to feel good. I wanted those endorphins to kick in. Hell, I just wanted to feel like myself. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years when I don’t feel like me. Do you ever have that? Like you feel out of sorts, like something isn’t right but you don’t know what that is? Now that I’m perimenopausal, I certainly feel like that more and more. It’s not just the physical–the hot flashes, the 15-20 pound weight gain since 2017, the occasional lethargy. But also the mental and emotional changes and challenges that are not necessarily due to perimenopause–the occasional emotional outburst, the grief, the anger, the stress of so much loss–and trying to find a way to not only take care of myself (which admittedly I’ve been pretty bad at), but also to take care of my son and husband AND to be a support for my friends and the rest of my family.

After living through the deaths of my brother and parents, watching my husband nearly die twice and supporting a stressed and grieving child, then managing to get through (and currently going through) all the logistical shit people don’t tell you about (burials, funerals, wills, estates, financial loss while recovering from illness), I have learned a lot. But I also received a HUGE load of emotional support from my friends and family. And I want to give that back in spades. I know I still don’t have the right words to say to someone after a loved one dies, but I often say that I’m here if you need anything and often suggest a meal or time together or even $20 if I have it. I don’t say any of that unless I mean it. Occasionally someone will take me up on it and ask for help. And I’m grateful. When I was desperate, I did reach out to my friends and asked for help. Nearly every time they were more than happy to lend a hand or an ear. That’s what being a friend is. (And more than once I did NOT ask for any assistance, yet some friends helped me anyway. Because they are that awesome.)

Reach out to your friends and family this week. Contact the ones you want to. I give you permission to not bother with those folks who continually disappoint or hurt you. I know that the holidays can mean being forced to spend time with people you might not want to. Admittedly, I had a great family and loved to spend time with them. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. I know our family was lucky that way. But if you don’t have that kind of family but one that is toxic and treats you badly, I hope you get to have dinner with your chosen family this week. If you can’t do that, then please find SOMETHING that makes you happy this week, ok? Preferably nothing that can harm you. Go for a hike, pet a cat, read a great book, have a glass of good wine, walk a dog, eat pie, bake a pie, have sex, go for a run, buy new shoes–whatever makes you feel good!

And if you need a hand or an ear, I’ll do my best to lend you one or the other. I’ll try to be here for you, as you’ve been there for me.

Until then, I’ll try to keep running amidst hot flashes and cold mornings. You’d think they’d cancel each other, right? Sadly, no, but at least your voices in my head will keep me going. (I’m standing up straight, Sonya!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. ❤

Power of Positive Thinking

On my run today, I started working on my posture. It’s truly awful. I’ve always been a sloucher. When you’re over 6 feet tall and a majority of your friends are “average” height, you find yourself hunching your shoulders and slouching to try and shorten yourself. My brother was 6’6″ and his posture was just as horrible. He had a little hump near the end of his life and I can see that happening to me, too. (As I’m typing this, I’m sitting ramrod straight just thinking about it!)

Since I was trying to relax my shoulders and run tall, I didn’t worry about my pace this morning. But the route I took included a long, steep hill, and normally that’s when I feel my shoulders meeting my ears and my gaze aiming at the ground. Not today! I kept thinking, “Ok, you can do this. Don’t worry about your pace, just keep those shoulders back and look straight ahead. And relax, damn it!” So I talked to myself in my head for a few minutes, then started to think about the week ahead.

Tomorrow, five months to the day since his “widow maker” of a heart attack, this guy is undergoing another cardiac catherization and a stent inserted into a 100% clogged artery.

As I was slowly ascending that hill, I thought about this blog and the outpouring of support I’ve received because of it. When my husband was on a ventilator and in a coma in 2020, people around the country were sending him healing thoughts and prayers. I’m not exaggerating. We know a lot of folks between the two of us and they’re all over the place. And due to this blog and at least one dear friend’s move, we now know folks all over the world. So, once again, I am asking for those positive thoughts sent this way.

When Husband had his heart attack in June (the day after my birthday), he was told he might need this upcoming surgery. But he didn’t really remember that. I did. He was a little surprised in the fall when his doctor told him he’s need this stent fairly soon. And then in October, what little energy my husband had, he was losing quickly. He wasn’t (and isn’t) well. Then one day, while I was away at a conference, both his doctor and his boss told him he needed to take a break from work. His boss’ words were, “You’re not having another heart attack on my watch.” Our family doctor has been concerned and thought he might need to stop working…possibly for good. But Husband said “no.” He’ll stop working until after the surgery, but he’s too young to stop all together. We hope! (Meanwhile, he’s been getting shots in his eyes due to his diabetes…and those shots have advanced his tiny cataracts into full-blown cataracts. So that surgery will be next month!)

Tomorrow morning, we will head, once again, to the hospital. This time, though, they won’t have to save his life while quickly putting a stent in. This time, the operation will take three hours and the surgeons can take their time, look around, do what they need to do. Hopefully it will extend my husband’s life. Hopefully his energy will improve and he’ll be able to do things again. Maybe he can do yard work without having heart palpitations or take a walk with me without having to nap afterwards. I thought those things would happen this summer or fall, but they didn’t.

So let’s get this shit fixed, ok? Let’s raise my husband’s quality of life.

Let’s get him living again.

Love to you all. Thank you in advance for sending those good vibes our way. ❤

Runner’s High?

I’ve only been running for 11 years now, but very often I feel this sense of strength and determination during my run. It’s not endorphins, just this single-mindedness to keep going. Today I ran 10 miles for various reasons. I thought I’d do a 15K (9.3 miles) as I continue to train for a marathon. But with my upcoming work schedule, a long run will not be in the cards for 2 weeks, so I figured I’d push it today. It was 59 degrees, cloudy, a cool breeze–perfect for a long run.

Maine is beautiful most of the time, but the autumn in Maine is glorious. The leaves are all changing but after the rain this weekend, many have fallen. It’s getting near the end of the gorgeous season, so I’ve been trying to get out and run while I can to enjoy the colors.

During the last few miles of my 10 miler, my body was starting to hurt. My hips, my right calf, my hamstrings, everything. But I pulled my shoulders back, looked straight ahead and just kept moving. Once I was finished, I guzzled chocolate milk, took ibuprofren, closed the door to my home library so my cat wouldn’t attack my feet (he loves those compression stockings!), and slowly got my body to the carpeted floor. As I lay on my back, I pulled my right knee to my chest…and started to giggle….and giggle….and laugh until I cried.

It. Was. AWESOME!

Apparently, this isn’t necessarily endorphins, or the runner’s high, but this euphoria was due to endocannabinoids. These are biochemical substances that are similar to cannabis and can give you that sense of calm. Typically, I feel very serene after a run and am able to deal with stress a bit easier, but today was something different entirely. It’s like a laughing orgasm! Something that felt so intensely good, in this case the relaxing then stretching of my muscles, that my body felt the need to release pressure and it came out as hysterical laughter. It was so friggin’ cool! 🙂 It was so much better than crying, which is what my body usually does after anything too intense.

Of course, after I stretched and showered, I wanted to eat everything…so I did. I literally cleaned out my fridge and threw everything into a bowl and ate it–lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, canned peas, leftover pork loin and cooked egg yolks. It was absolutely delicious. And weird.

And now that evening is here, I will rub my legs with a muscle salve, eat some candy, and hopefully sleep a truly restful, pain-free sleep.

Good night, y’all.

May you have sweet dreams that make you smile or laugh out loud.

Just Run

It’s been a wacky few weeks at work and home. There seems to be a lot of anger and fear drifting from place to place and person to person. Tension is high yet I don’t feel stressed until the evening, when my chest feels tight and I realize I haven’t taken a deep breath for much of the day.

Except when I run.

The anniversary of my mother’s death was a few days ago and the days leading up to it, I didn’t think much about it. I tried to push my emotions down deep and the memories away.

And then I ran.

During a typical 5k weekday morning run, I kept feeling this odd pressure one inch above my right wrist. It felt just like my mother wrapping her fingers around my arm, like when we would compare how skinny our wrists were. We could both easily wrap our fingers around each others forearms with our fingers touching because we both had (and have) bird arms. I ran down the road and kept glancing at my right arm. I started to laugh out loud until a sob escaped my lips.

But I kept running.

Tonight, after seeing Facebook memories of my mother keep popping up on my phone, I decided I had too much energy to burn off and went for an early evening run at 5pm. It was another weird day filled with putting out fires and forgetting my wallet and going to dentist appointments and a failed attempt to get my son a flu shot. So a run sounded good, even though I usually despise afternoon or evening runs. My body and mind are typically too tired during that time of day, but today I thought I could handle it.

The first mile and a half were lovely. The light streaming through the colorful leaves at that time of day were gorgeous. Then as I was passing this swamp:

Something made a HUGE splash and scared the shit out of me. I actually screamed. No idea if something fell from a tree, if it was a bullfrog, or just the Swamp Thing. Whatever it was, it completely threw me off. My usual turn-off is just up the hill from here and I made it there but I immediately ran out of gas. I started to trudge along for a few minutes, then walked for a minute. My breathing was off and I thought I might have to call home. I started to think about what I ate today and realized it wasn’t much. I felt depleted because I didn’t have any fuel left. Or so I thought.

I took it easy for the next mile, ran fairly slowly, watched five chickens hanging out in a field. Then for my last half mile, my second wind gusted through me and I flew home. I felt so light and free and fierce. The feeling was fleeting, but I tried to capture it:

I expect life to be busy and somewhat stressful for the next few months. I hope things will get better, but I will also try to remember that I don’t have control over everything. I will try to find that inner ferocity that I forget I have but something my mother exuded. Although I’m not good at letting shit go, I’ll do my best.

And sometimes I’ll say “fuck it all” and just run.

Quiet

Ever have one of those days where you just want to be quiet? Probably sounds like a silly question coming from a librarian, although in my public library we don’t encourage quiet. We encourage interaction and communication. But today was not a particularly busy day, and I was grateful for that.

Today I wanted everyone around me to speak in monotones and I said as few words as possible. I could still listen to people talk, but I didn’t want to hear any loud voices or screaming. Laughing was ok, though. My eyes felt partially closed all day and I felt like I was underwater….no. That’s not a good analogy. I’d panic if I was underwater for more than two seconds. Everything just seemed…fuzzy.

I think it’s Grief Vision. This is how I felt when I was in-between deaths and burials or funerals, or the weeks afterward. Grief Vision makes everything look kind of cloudy and I’m tired and a bit apathetic towards the world. Today I wasn’t tremendously sad, but I felt lonely. Lonely for the people who are no longer here. Not just for those that have died, but even for those I can’t see in person due to distance or disagreements.

I know this all stems from the fact that it’s Mom’s birthday today. She should have been 75. I’m at the point when I can remember her and smile or laugh at things we did together. I have residual disappointment from some of her actions, but the fact is those actions were not directed towards me which has always placed me in a weird place. I will love my mother until the day I die. I do wish I could have asked her a few questions, but to be honest, I’m not sure I would have. I was always afraid of disappointing her or having Mom angry with me. She rarely was, but that could be because I have the “good girl syndrome.” When you grow up in a messed up home, I think you choose a role to play or your personality pushes you towards a task within your family. Some rebel and act out, some stay quiet and hide, and others try to be extra “good,” hoping to make peace within the family. That last one was and is me through and through and it’s time to stop.

Is it a bad thing, being a good person? No, of course not. But if you’re always trying to be that good person for someone else, it’s not always good for YOU. I don’t regret many of the decisions I made in the past so I could be that good person for my family, but I’m trying to make good choices for me now.

One of those choices was to visit Mom’s grave. This initially felt like I was doing this for Mom, to be that good daughter who always did the right thing–visited on all holidays and every Saturday, kept track of doctor appointments and medicines to refill, placed her in a nursing home that dealt with Alzheimer’s patients. Ok. That last one was something Mom didn’t appreciate but I think it was the right thing to do. Maybe?

Anyway, I went to Mom’s grave because it was her birthday and she should have coffee. I bought a Dunkin Donut’s coffee…then realized I locked my keys in the car. Let me say I have NEVER done this. Not once in my 32 years of driving and car ownership. (Although someone may have another story that I truly don’t remember, so forgive me if my memory is faulty. It happens.) Unbelievably, I was extremely calm about the whole thing. I called my husband and asked for my spare key (we live 35 minutes away). I sat outside with my pumpkin spice coffee (sorry, Mom, but I’m drinking this) and waited. As I sat there, soaking in the warm afternoon sun in the crisp fall air, I had an epiphany. Can’t these long orangutan arms fit through the one partially opened car window?

Yup. They can.

I called the husband, told him I got into the car and I was off to the cemetery.

Each time I go to Mom or Dad’s grave, I always bring a blanket to sit on. That’s what I did today, and placed the coffee beside Mom’s stone. Then I laid my head on Mom’s name and started to sob. I don’t remember the last time Mom held me, but I imagined it this evening. I let the stress and tension and anger and fear and sadness drain from my body, or at least that’s what I hoped was happening. It was somewhat cathartic and completely exhausting. I sat up when I could cry no longer, and drank my coffee, apologizing to Mom for drinking it…and the fact that it was pumpkin flavored…and talked to her for a while. I laughed out loud thinking about what her reaction would be to my/her drink and I complimented her on the view. Mom has some pretty fabulous trees around her along with some of her friends beside her and behind her.

As I traced Mom’s name on her stone with my finger, I realized that this visit really was for me. It might have started out trying to do the right thing for Mom, but I think it ended up being the right thing for me. I needed to be near my mother somehow, and being in the town I grew up in and in the town where I knew my mother best, it was the closest I could be to her.

It wasn’t a hug, but it was something. ❤