I Think It’s Getting Better?

Just a few days ago I wrote to y’all about my anxiety, my frustration and my helplessness. Since I began therapy a year ago, I’ve been trying to not compartmentalize my emotions as much and instead attempt to actually feel them and deal with them at the moment they happen. Well that turned out to be a mess! As I told a friend today, it’s like I’m trying to stop a waterfall with my hands. Every feeling and thought overwhelms me until I feel like I’m drowning.

So I began my extra anti-anxiety/depressant med a few days ago. I truly felt like a zombie the next day and ate a lot of sugar and salt throughout the day just to function (and comfort). But Thursday was a little better. I got to talk with my sister and a few friends and it was doable.

And today? Today was pretty ok. I didn’t go to work but had a meeting via Zoom. I got to laugh with some of my colleagues, ask questions, offer a little assistance, and generally felt good when it was over. I felt…worthy, competent, maybe appreciated in a weird way? Then I had to race to my appointments at the hospital, tests to have done before my distal pancreatectomy in June. The tests were not horribly unpleasant, but I wasn’t able to drink coffee or eat until 3pm, so I was a little fuzzy. It did remind me of what it feels like to have pancreatitis again, though, and not being able to eat or drink coffee and having your brain be foggy and just wanting to eat absolutely anything. I started to think about the upcoming surgery (and knowing I won’t be able to eat for several days then) and decided I just couldn’t. Back to stuffing shit into my brain boxes so I don’t have to deal with it!

As soon as my CT scan was done, I decided to go directly to the hospital cafeteria for coffee and a gluten-free blueberry muffin (which are especially delicious when you haven’t eaten in 20 hours). Normally I immediately leave the hospital after any kind of appointment. I’ve been there so much in the past few years for myself and my family that I don’t like to linger. I always have this feeling like if I stay for a bit, Fate will think I should stick around and something will happen to someone I love. I know. That makes no sense but my brain often doesn’t.

But…Dad died in this hospital. I’ve been thinking of him so much this past week, missing him SO much, desperately wanting to talk to him and be hugged by him again. I needed him. He’s not here. The last time I heard his voice and said he loved me was in this hospital. So today….today I lingered. I got my coffee and muffin and sat down in the eating area. I didn’t read my book or look at my phone. I just tore my muffin into bits, popped them into my mouth and washed it all down with Snickerdoodle coffee. I didn’t think of anything in particular. I didn’t think about the fact that this hospital was the last place I had a conversation with my brother, the last place I saw and touched my father, but also the place where my son was born and the place that saved my husband’s life. There is so much grief and joy for me associated with this hospital that it’s difficult to even know what I’m feeling.

So instead of trying to identify what I was feeling or thinking, I just sat. I watched a few people, but mostly I enjoyed what I was eating and drinking and concentrated on the tastes and textures. I lived in the moment. It’s something I wish I could do more.

There’s always tomorrow I suppose.

Here’s wishing all of you more times of living in the moment. ❤ Hugs to you, friends.

Worry, Concern, Apprehension

Anxiety: “The state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen.”–Oxford Learner’s Dictionary. The Mayo Clinic defines anxiety as an “intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.”

Have you ever had an anxiety attack? Not a panic attack–where you truly feel like you’re dying–but a sudden feeling of anxiousness and worry and maybe have trouble breathing? For the past few days, since we came back from our “vacation,” I’ve had a few of these attacks. This “vacation” was time away from home, but not nearly enough relaxing. There was a LOT of stress between the actual traveling (slept in an airport, spent 7 hours in another one) and visiting family and honestly…me being me. Trying to make everyone happy at least some of the time is what I tend to do in ALL situations–family, friends, work. And this was a visit to some family we haven’t seen in a while and I knew it was bound to be stressful but…was it really any worse than any other visit?

After arriving home (10 hours later than we were supposed to) and enjoying sleeping in my own bed again, I felt a bit off. Again, that’s to be expected. Post vacation blues are a real thing, hence my large brownie for breakfast that next morning. I spent several hours doing laundry, emptying suitcases, vacuuming, and feeling productive. Then I headed to my scheduled therapy appointment…and completely lost it.

I’ve been told that sometimes when you completely relax, emotions and memories and pain can all rise to the surface because your body and mind are no longer going at top speed. And although I didn’t get a lot of that relaxing time, I did have at least a few hours where I just swam in the sun or dozed in a dark, cool room or walked along a secluded lakeside path. But I thought about so little during those times nor did I think of much again until I sat in my therapist’s office. And even then I just FELT everything. I was completely overwhelmed with grief and confusion and loss and maybe wishing for something I can’t have?

I don’t know.

All I know is that I couldn’t leave my therapist’s office. I could not stand up. I did not know how to leave, how to take one step in front of the other and walk out her door. I was sobbing and asked her to give me an assignment because I knew if I had one thing to focus on, I could at least leave her office and get to my car. So she did, and somehow I left the building.

The next afternoon I was on my way to drop my son off at the mall when all of a sudden the noises I could hear were literally taking my breath away. The radio was on, my son was talking, his phone might have been playing something, we just passed a bunch of kids on bikes…it all became too much. I had to pull over, shut off the radio and asked him to just stop for a minute so I could breathe. I closed my eyes, took a few breaths, and I was better. He asked if I was ok, and I said not really, but would be. I cried a few miles later and we talked about how this trip, this “vacation” affected us both. The horrible traveling really got to my son, as well as the heat and possibly a bit too much visiting. 🙂 He then played us some 80s music as we continued on to the mall and we both felt immensely better.

On Sunday I had planned to run and boost up my endorphins. But a friend called and needed my husband and I, and honestly, I was glad he did. Focusing on someone else’s problems and/or pain is a great way to distract you from your own! It also resolved some issues that have lingered for nearly 30 years, so I’m grateful for that and the fact we were able to help and be there for our friend.

But today, as I drove my son to school, anxiety overwhelmed me once again. There was no music, no noise, no talking even. I didn’t need to pull over this time, but I did need to take many deep breaths and try to just focus on the road. Once I dropped my son off, I called my doctor and asked to double my antianxiety meds. (I’m currently on the lowest dose possible and have been for nearly two years.) He said I could, so tonight I’ll give it a shot and see how the next few weeks go.

I started to write this tonight to try and figure out what is going on in my brain. I don’t know if I’m much closer to any answer, but it felt good to get something out on “paper.” Although my therapy can be tremendously helpful, my secondary form of therapy, aka blogging, can also clarify situations, problems, ideas or emotions enough for me to at least carry on until I can figure things out.

So…as always…thank you for listening. If you ever feel this high level of anxiety, please reach out to get some help, ok? Even if it’s just to talk to someone for a little bit. You can always reach out to me, too. You don’t have to know me but know I can listen. I’m not a professional so please reach out to a counselor or therapist if that’s what you need, but if you need a sounding board, I’m happy to help.

Take care, all. ❤

Vacay

In a few days, my family and I will be going on our first vacation together in at least four years, and our first flight together in 8 years. Our son was two feet shorter back then. Now that we’re all over 6 feet tall, we will not be sitting three in a row unless there’s an aisle between us! To say that I have been excited to go somewhere warm and away from work for a few days is an understatement. BUT, I am also trying to tamp down my expectations.

This is the first week I’ll be away from my work without having a full staff at my library. I take my responsibility as the director of a small library very seriously. This community counts on me and the library to provide them with not only a place to “be” and go to, but to provide a wide range of services. That, in itself, can be problematic since our role as the library has increased responsibilities or rather increased expectations from the community, yet without an increased staff or budget. But you know what? That is a discussion for a different day. Instead, let me just say that I’ll be worried about my staff and volunteers while I’m gone. They are incredibly good, kind people, but as many of you know, working with the public can be very stressful–even with kind, well-intentioned patrons. I have supplied the staff with loads of candy, lots of instructions for weird things that could happen, and my cell phone number. Really that’s all I can do, right? That and have faith and confidence in their abilities.

Which I most definitely do.

So why the hell am I worrying?

Now as the actual vacation goes, that’s a crapshoot. There will be lots of visiting my husband’s family, a little sightseeing, and hopefully some relaxing alone time, pool time and running time. But again, I must lower my expectations. Some plans have already changed and I need to just let it all go. Deep breaths, go with the flow, at least I’m not in a war zone, first world problems, etc.

But for just a minute, I’m going to whine and bitch and wish that for the first vacation I’ve taken in years, I could truly relax and not think about much except myself and my own joy. Am I selfish? Not always, but sometimes yes damn it, I am! And you should be, too. For a day or a week, it’s ok to think about JUST yourself so you can think about and take care of every other fucking person around you for the rest of the year. Call it self-care or survival, but it’s something we all need to do sometimes.

So…maybe for one day in the next week, I will do just that. I’ll take a day for me and only me. And if not? I have a therapy session all set to go the day I get back from vacation.

Cheers to all of you, friends. Thank you for listening to my bitch post, because that’s really all this was. If you take nothing else from it, just take my gratitude for being here. I know there are so many horrible things happening in the world and this country and to my friends to be honest, but sometimes it’s also ok to just sit in your own shit for a minute. Then you pick yourself up, clean yourself off, and keep going. ❤ And now that I’ve sat in my shit for more than a few minutes, I can move on. Hugs to you all.

Burning Down the House

I’ve had this Talking Heads song circling through my brain for the past week:

Burning Down the House

“My house
Is out of the ordinary
That’s right
Don’t wanna hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support
And you have not seen nothin’ yet”

When David Byrne wrote the lyrics, “the title phrase was a metaphor for destroying something safe that entrapped you. I envisioned the song as an expression of liberation, to break free from whatever was holding you back.”

When I first started to write this post, I couldn’t say that Byrne’s definition was what I was feeling. I was feeling burnt out and broken for sure. But breaking free? Maybe. I did want to burn everything down but not necessarily to start again. Just burn it all down and walk away.

I had several nightmares last week, which I haven’t had in a very long time. In one dream I was a passenger in a car that was going too fast and about to crash (easy to analyze that–I felt and feel like everything is out of my control), but I don’t know what happened in the other dream. I just woke up at 3:30am scared with my heart pounding. You know, the usual. Then I had a very unsatisfying therapy session on Friday. I just felt like I was spinning my wheels, talking about shit I had talked about before but won’t do anything about. I even felt like my therapist was a little frustrated with me, although she tried not to show it. (Of course, I was also her last client on a Friday evening and I bet she just wanted to get the hell out of there and go home!) That night I ended up burying what I was feeling in a bag of guacamole-flavored chips. I’ve been very good about not emotionally eating for months, but I blew it out of the water that night.

But now it’s a few days later. I finally finished a few things at work and let a few other things go. I know you should never try to be everything to everyone, either personally or professionally. But I suck at it. After all of the trauma my family has faced in the past 5 years, and all the kindness we received during that time, I do make an effort to help my friends when they’re hurting or even if they just need someone to listen. Does it take its toll? Sometimes, but it’s more the combination of being a good friend while trying to run a library that also tries to be everything to everyone—which you just shouldn’t do. Take it from a librarian of a small, rural library who has kept committing to programs and events and being on committees and boards while still running the library with a temporarily smaller staff. It’s nuts and things have fallen through the cracks. Don’t do it.

We all have to implement boundaries in our work, our relationships, and within ourselves. How many committees are you willing to participate on? How late in the evening will you keep texting or talking to a friend? Do you really need to get up at 7am on Saturday to fit all of your chores and errands in while still squeezing in a run? Or can you skip sweeping the floors and sleep in?

Tonight I can finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I go on vacation in four weeks. I have one large report to write still, but only two more programs to facilitate before then. I don’t have an exact date for my upcoming distal pancreatectomy and possible splenectomy, but I know it will be in June, and my body scans and extra vaccines are being scheduled. Life is moving along. Not always in ways I want them to, but that’s what life typically is, right?

Just hang in there, everyone. The world is shit right now I know. I have to stop watching the news and read about what’s going on instead, otherwise I end up crying every morning. Stay informed but if you have to distance yourself then do it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You have to put on your oxygen mask before helping your neighbor, right? So do that. Take care of yourself then you’ll be able to help others.

Hugs to you all, friends. Let’s try to survive another day. ❤

Running Through My Head

Picture this: You’re running through the quiet streets of rural Maine. You can hear the occasional bird chattering in the distance, a snowmobile driving through a nearby field, your footfalls on the pavement or splashing in the slush and puddles. Now picture your neighbor out puttering in their yard or shoveling their walkway as they hear snippets of “Mein Herr” from Cabaret or Pink telling them to “Raise Your Glass” or maybe even Rihanna & Eminem talking about the monsters and voices in their heads. Then they see this giant bumblebee of a woman running by, possibly smiling, possibly gasping, with that music emitting from her body. It’s a glorious image, isn’t it? 😉

Saturday was very warm for central Maine–in the low 50s on a February morning. The sun wasn’t shining throughout my 10K run, but it still felt like spring. I was able to wear my orange running shoes instead of my trail runners I have to wear on the snow and ice-covered roads, and I felt so light with those beauties on my feet. Yesterday it was either bare road or mud puddles, and I loved them both.

During the first few miles of my run, I just enjoyed each moment. My music made me smile, there was little traffic, I felt strong and swift. My thoughts started to drift towards home, towards my son who was getting ready for his first date as I pounded the pavement. He was nervous but excited. My husband was having a good morning with no body pain. It was a good morning.

I started to think about my therapy appointment from the day before. How overwhelmed I’ve felt this week. My need to prioritize my workload, yet how stuck I’ve felt all week. I got the call on Monday that I’ll need to have a distal pancreatectomy–removal of the tail of my pancreas. The cysts that are present are precancerous, so it’s time to take care of them. I’ve done so much of my own research that I feel like I know what’s ahead of me, yet I feel like I am completely clueless all at the same time. I meet with the surgeon in a few weeks with my long list of questions (thank you friends!) and I think I’ll feel better at that point. Or I’ll feel worse.

I know for a fact that the recovery will be awful. Hell, the removal of an internal organ or part of one is no easy thing for your body to heal from. It’ll take time. There’ll be a lot of pain and fatigue and who knows what else? Probably loss of weight, which normally I’d say “Alright!” Maybe I can look at the weight loss as a positive?

Yeah…maybe not. That’s my eating disorders and poor body image talking.

These thoughts flitted in and out as I kept running. The Beatles’ “All Together Now” came up on my playlist and I focused on the song and nodded along. I thought of my brother who introduced me to this song. I thought about the library and my work and how long would I need to be out for this operation and recovery? I love what I do but I also feel a lot of pressure to continually justify the library’s existence. We do great work and we provide MANY services to our patrons and residents, but sometimes it feels like too much, especially with just a handful of staff.

I had to push all of that out of my head and keep running, placing one foot in front of the other. Jon Batiste’s “I Need You” started to play and I could feel my face light up with that happy, fun music–just like my friend, Denise–this is her song and I love it! It makes me want to dance or run faster, which I did. It helped push me up a small hill and past the cemetery where my Grammy is buried. I blew her a kiss like I do most days and couldn’t help but think of Mom. If she were here, she’d be sick with worry about my upcoming operation. And Dad would reassure me that all would be well but worry as soon as I left the room.

As I neared home, I thought about what will happen during my recovery. What will I be able to do at home? I’m fortunate that my son is a teen and could do nearly anything we need him to. I worry that my husband will not be well enough, but currently he’s ok. And like many women I know, I currently do WAY too much of the work at my house. That will all have to change.

And I’m going to have to let some things go. I absolutely hate losing control over anything, and this all feels like a damned tornado ripping through every aspect of my life. Yet if I don’t go through with it? Pancreatic cancer will surely rear its ugly head at some point in my future.

So….yeah. I think I’ll take my chances with the tornado.

When I arrived at my house and tiptoed up my icy driveway, I was still in the same good mood I was in when I left. Actually, much more so. Even with all of my worries unraveling, I didn’t need to deal with them right then and there. I just finished running 6.2 miles at a much faster pace than I had run in weeks and with my body still feeling decent. I was smiling as I started to stretch on my front steps, and I asked my husband to take my picture. I wanted a record of how I looked, while I felt as good as I did.

I looked good. Happy. Satisfied.

It was a good day.

The future is uncertain, but isn’t it for all of us? Let’s just try to celebrate those good moments and good days right now.

Tomorrow I’ll work on my plans on how to control the universe.

Surviving

Today is my 3-year anniversary as the director of a small public library. I’ve worked at the library for over 16 years, but was given the gift of leading the library for the past three years. It’s no secret that I love what I do, and as much as I don’t believe in “things happen for a reason” or “soul mates” or even “destiny,” I think being a rural public librarian is the absolute perfect profession for me. Do I still dream of becoming a writer and actually making a living from it? Of course! But I know my writing isn’t good enough for that to happen, not without a lot more effort and practice and education. Right now, though, my heart is with librarianship.

As I talked to my husband today about everything that’s happened since I became director, I couldn’t help but choke back a sob. How did I make it through it all? Let me give you the timeline:

February 2019: Become director of the library. This was 2 months after my husband had been laid off. He was unemployed when I got this job. It was 18 1/2 months after my brother died. That may not seem relevant, but his life and death impact me in ways most people cannot understand.

March 2019: My funny, sweet, lovely father dies on St. Patrick’s Day.

May 2019: My husband gets a new job. Yes!

June 2019: I break my arm while walking with my son. I break it so badly that a plate and nine screws had to be implanted in my upper arm.

September 2019: My mother becomes ill and I make the choice to place her in hospice care.

October 2019: My loving, supportive, bad-ass mom dies on October 4th. She left this planet five minutes after I left her bedside.

January 2020: After the difficulties of 2019, we decide to plan a fabulous Florida vacation with a cruise.

February 2020: Husband goes into the hospital with pneumonia and the flu, then ends up on a ventilator and in a coma. Both our son and I have the flu, too, and for two weeks we wait. I answer questions from the doctors because they cannot wake him up from the comatose state they put him into. Questions about kidney failure and brain damage are thrown around. Yet on Valentine’s Day, he finally wakes up. ❤

March 2020: While my husband continues to recover at home, I manage pancreatitis at home. I know if I go to the hospital, there won’t be anyone to take care of my husband or son. So I drink fluids, get blood drawn every other day for my doctor to keep tabs on me, and I go to work to keep us all afloat. Then COVID-19 hits the U.S. and I close the library on the evening of March 16th and we cancel our dream vacation.

April 2020: We celebrate our son becoming a teenager with a family party via Zoom. Not quite what we had planned.

May 2020: While working from home, I go for a lunchtime walk and am bitten by the neighbor’s dog. My husband rushes me to the doctor for stitches and to check out all the puncture wounds on my legs. We re-open the library this month for curbside services.

June 2020: We re-open the library doors.

August 2020: I run a half-marathon because I can.

September 2020: I run another half-marathon on Mom’s birthday in memory of her bad-assery.

January/February 2021: I start training for a marathon. Just weeks later I get a stress fracture in my right leg. We watch our beloved cat, Miso, have a seizure and die in front of our eyes as my husband calls the vet and my son and I cry and try to comfort the sweetest cat that ever lived. We all hold him in our arms afterwards and cry until bedtime.

March/April 2021: I start taking walks and short runs again. My sanity is somewhat restored.

June 2021: Our son “graduates” from 8th grade. My husband has a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th. He only survives because he was near a university medical center.

August 2021: The boy enters high school.

September 2021: Husband goes back to work.

Late October 2021: Husband told by doctor to stop working until he has another heart surgery.

November 2021: Two stents placed in husband’s heart. His energy improves dramatically!

January 2022: I have a procedure on my pancreas to determine if I have cancerous tumors or the possibility of cancer forming on said tumors. Still waiting for the results.

And there you have it. There were MANY activities and emotions not mentioned, and a lot of those were fabulous. I smiled every day, I think. They weren’t all real, but many of them were. I laughed nearly every day. I, like so many of you, juggled lots of other crap we don’t talk about because it’s life—flat tires, sick pets, stress from work and COVID and paying bills and EVERYTHING.

But…I’ve also read over 800 books since I became director. (Many of them middle-school novels.) I’ve written blog posts and poems and reports and letters. I’ve made new friends, some of them being my library patrons. I’ve created new connections at the library, both personally and professionally. I’m trying to lead the library into being the center of the community, and with the amazing support from the Board, the volunteers, and the residents, I think we can do it.

Yes, WE.

If I’ve learned anything from these past three years, it’s that I can’t do my work by myself. I can’t succeed alone. I have an incredible staff, support system and library users that makes the library a wonderful place to be a part of.

But I also know that I would never have survived these three years without my family and friends. Never. I received gift cards and meals when my husband was in the hospital. People sent me cards when my parents died and gave me hugs when I needed them. They were also there to just listen. I have friends all around the country and so many of them reached out in various ways over the past few years. Sometimes just listening is all I needed. And that’s why you reading this blog has also helped me. Tremendously.

So…thank you. I think that’s really all I’m trying to say tonight. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for supporting me in however you know how. Thanks for being you.

Now go to your local library. They need your support even more these days. And remember, keep reading. It doesn’t matter what it is. I am not a judgy librarian! Read what you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, tell them your librarian said to screw off. ❤

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.