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.

Oh Happy Day

I rarely have happy days. I’ve said before that I’m not a particularly happy person. I have happy moments for sure, but never a happy day. Either my self-doubt will get in the way or something makes me so angry that it ruins half the day for me. And yet, in the middle of this pandemic, when the uncertainties far outweigh what we know as truths, I had one of the best days in years.

I started my day with my version of a long run–4.5 miles. The furthest run I’ve done in a long, long time. I was slow but I felt like a machine. I even conquered this hill.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But as you run down this nice slope, it levels off for a few feet then gradually goes up and up and up for close to a half mile. I was trudging at the top, but I didn’t stop and I felt like a superstar. And then I saw these lovely flowers that I had to admire.

For part of the rest of the day I raked part of my land where I hope to make a little space for myself and possibly a memory garden that I’m calling “Mom’s Place” or perhaps “Wine Away” where I can sip wine and whine about the world to the surrounding trees. (Although currently there are a lot of tree roots which combined with wine would not be a good scene.) I talked to my neighbor/cousin for a while, too, as we swatted black flies away.

Later I baked a cake, drank homemade iced tea on my porch while reading a book, hung out with my family in little bits outside and inside, vacuumed, did laundry and dishes and greeted grumpiness from both my son and husband with good cheer, which brought them into my good mood. It was all absolutely amazing!

I don’t know if it’s because it’s Sunday and I tried not to think about work or because it was sunny and nearly 70 degrees. I also thought about my family today. My son made a funny remark that made me scold him and laugh all in the same breath, and it reminded me so much of my brother. I made sure my boy knew that, too, which pleased him to no end. He would like nothing more than to be just like his uncle. I also kept thinking about both of my parents and my grandmother. Working outside on the land makes me think about Mom and Grammy because they were both work horses. They seemed to have so much energy when it came to cleaning and gardening and doing just about anything for their families. And the weather today made me think about my papa. He would have loved today. There was this lovely breeze that kept most of the bugs away, but it was warm and not humid and just perfect. I could picture Dad and I sitting on his deck or my porch, enjoying some of that iced tea I made today.

Isn’t if funny how a day at home can actually be better than a vacation? I thought about driving to the coast next weekend–but that takes time on the road with lots of other people trying to get to the ocean and where can we go and still be away from people? Or when we are able to go on a vacation again, the travel time and the crankiness of my family or fellow travelers can be such a letdown. But on a lovely day in rural Maine, with much of my day puttering around my home and being alone when I want to and spending time with my family when I want to, it was pure bliss.

Hope you had a decent day today. If not, tomorrow is another day. Let’s try again, ok?

Hugging you from afar.

Love You Forever

Do you ever wake up with a bellyache because you’re nervous or anxious about something? Maybe it’s about a speech you need to give or you’re starting a new job or you need to go to a funeral. That last one might seem odd, but I’ve experienced so many types of funerals, burials or celebrations of life in the past 3 years that I now know I will wake up with a bellyache before every one.

But I also hurt before any of the firsts. The first holiday season without my brother, the first Fathers’ Day without my dad, and now tomorrow will be the first Mothers’ Day without my mom. I didn’t feel great yesterday but I didn’t know why. I actually forgot about Mothers’ Day for a bit. But then I was reminded–by the news, by library programs, by the world. And today I feel awful–and it’s not just the fact that it’s May 9th and snowing. (WTF?!?) Or that I had to take a few kitties to the vet to get their shots. Or that I had a crappy run on the treadmill.

It’s because I miss my mom.

I know there are others of you out there who are missing your mom today, too. It might be because you live far away from her and it’s impossible to see her right now. I get that, but call her. If you can, drive to her house and talk to her outside. Or if she’s in a home, talk to her through a window. Go do that, ok?

And if you’re a member of the “My Mom is Gone” Club, then do what you can to honor your mom this weekend. Even if that just means to sit down for a few minutes and think about the good she did for you and the joy you brought to her. (And if your mom was downright awful to you, do what you can to just be you.)

After my crappy run, I got into my pajamas, wrapped myself in one of my mom’s sweaters and have been binging “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I folded clothes for a bit and sobbed. I stared at a few photos of Mom and sobbed some more. But now, to honor my mom, I will get off my butt…and bake a cake. Because that’s something she would have done, too.

Tomorrow, on Mothers’ Day, I will think of my kick-ass mom when I go for a run, then again as I’m eating some of that cake. And I will keep thinking of her as I make my child be my slave on this Mothers’ Day of 2020.

I think of you every day, Mom. I miss your smile, your laugh. I really miss seeing you light up when my son walks into the room. I love you and miss you so, so much.

“As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

Serenity Now

Ever feel like “Red”, the angry bird that has a short fuse and explodes a lot? Or how pissed off Michael and Janet Jackson seemed in their Scream video? “With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream…Stop pressurin’ me, stop pressurin’ me.” As a library director in the middle of this pandemic, this is exactly how I feel. I’m angry, confused, and just trying to do the right thing while voices from every side and direction continue to yell at you about one thing or another.

And I do mean yell. We have a library listserv in my state and lately it’s been downright awful. Mean people suck. And there not only mean people out there but rude and judgmental ones, too. (And I mean JUDGY!) Lately some of the comments on the listserv reminds me of why there remains the stereotype of a shushing bitch that we have tried so hard to demolish. And not just on the listserv but even among Zoom meetings or on social media. The library world is a small one, and the Maine library world is even smaller, so when you talk smack on one publicly, many of us listen and sometimes smack back.

There are also many Maine librarians that have been super heroes and awesome to the nth degree during this pandemic. Because that’s who many of them are and I try to ignore the others…or talk about them behind their back because you know we’re all doing that. But then I find myself lashing out at some colleagues at the end of this week. Some deserved it, others didn’t. I apologized to those that I knew I should, because that’s what I do and it is certainly not done enough, especially among co-workers and colleagues.

So to try and deal with all of this anger and confusion and grief, I attempted to do a few things this week to help me cope. Unbelievably, I did NOT eat my feelings this week. That was new! I attended a talk via Zoom on mental health co-sponsored by my son’s school, I talked to friends about all of it and I ran.

I’ve tried to begin running in earnest once again, starting 6 weeks ago with a running app called “Running to Lose Weight”. First off, I didn’t lose an ounce. I actually gained back weight, but I loved the routine so much that it didn’t matter. Instead the app eased me back into running with walking breaks until I was finally running my typical 3 miles again by the end of the six weeks.

Today I even hit a PR, at least a personal record in the past few years. I never, ever try and go for fast because I’m not. I would love to increase my distance back to my 10-mile Sundays that my brother used to be in awe and proud of. But that won’t happen for some time or maybe even ever again. But I’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some kind of peace while I’m out there or at least when I’m back home. I need to find a way to channel that anger, and not just just anger but all of these intense emotions that I seem to lose control over these days.

My “I kicked ass” face.

I know it’s ok to have all of those feelings–anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, and even intense joy. (Don’t let people take your happy moments away from you either, because they’ll try!) But I’d also like to be able to take a deep breath and find that moment of clarity and tranquility and carry on with whatever discussion I’m having with people and not lash out.

Hopefully I’ll find that bit of serenity when I need it. Until then, hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Doing ok?

I seem to ask that question a lot these days. I ask it of my family, my staff, my friends. I am asked the same question nearly every day, too. I think we’re all just trying to hold on and keep connected and check in to see if others are feeling as bad as you are.

How I feel most days…

Like you, there are good days and bad days, or rather good moments and bad days. Last week seemed particularly bad, at least at the end of the week. My son had a meltdown on Friday night, my husband snapped at me and his mother (over the phone) multiple times. (I had my screaming fits the week before so it was their turn.) Many folks here in Maine at least, seemed to have a similar reaction. It’s like we reached some breaking point of too many Zoom meetings or too much time alone or too much time with our families. Or maybe it’s because there’s talk of the “Stay at Home” order being lifted and we’re scared and we think it’s too soon.

I feel lost with little to no guidance. Nobody has definitive answers about much of anything. At my work there needs to be so many things put into place. Even if we can do some things like curbside service for library patrons, we are not ready to do so on May 1st. I feel like we put our pandemic plan into place in minutes, but we will not re-open as quickly. There are not enough supplies around to make us safe–masks, gloves, cleaning supplies–and then there’s the marking up of the library to stay 6 feet apart or counting people as they come in to make sure we’re not over the limit and do we install plexiglass or plastic sheeting at the desks? It’s all overwhelming and scary yet also seems necessary if we are ever to reopen.

And then there’s home. After being disabled, my husband is due to go back to work in a week. He’s already been warned that he may be furloughed. We already know our son will not be going back to school, so the online classes continue and the arguments getting him to do some of his work continue. Of course, then there’s just the uncertainty of it all. What will the future hold? What will our lives look like? Will the kids even be able to go back to school in the fall? Will the library be able to hold any kind of event this year? Will we all still have our jobs?

I try to not think of those last questions. I can’t. It’s a day by day world now, and I try so hard to live like that. As I’ve said many times, I’m not great at it, but my dad always tried to teach me to be patient. It’s ok to have plans, but know that they could all be shot to hell in an instant.


And just a little question for y’all. Have you gained any weight recently? I certainly have. At the beginning of March, I had pancreatitis for over 2 weeks and lost 11 pounds. (That was part of the 20 I gained last year and was trying to lose.) The day we closed the library was the first day I could start eating again. By the next week I had wholeheartedly begun stress eating. Fortunately I’m now running 4 times a week but the 11 pounds came right back anyway. And it’s kind of ok. I’ll continue to wear my fat clothes and occasionally munch on baby carrots, but a cookie or two a day is currently a must. The binging has finally stopped, but a little treat each day is my medicine–along with my antidepressant. 🙂

Stay as well as you can, everyone. Still looking forward to the days when I can hug you tight. ❤

Late to the Party

I am a librarian. I’ve been a librarian for nearly 23 years, with over 14 of those years at the Pittsfield Public Library. This library was one of the libraries I used as a kid (although I didn’t like it then). It’s close to where I grew up and it’s my second home–as it is to many people in the community. I used to be the Circulation Librarian, until a year ago when I was hired to become the director. It wasn’t a job I always wanted, but it’s a job I have become to love more than I thought possible.

On March 16th we had to close our doors to the public due to the health and safety concerns of COVID-19. Some of my staff and I cried that day because it was surreal and sad and our patrons are the lifeblood of the library. It’s not the building nor the books or films or programs. It’s the people. For a while we were still able to leave books for people in a secure location where we never saw each other (except by camera), then we did that by appointment only, and then we stopped it completely. Now tomorrow, April Fools’ Day no less, will be the last day the staff and I can go into the building. We will still be answering emails and conducting online programming and we’ll still be able to “see” and assist some of our patrons. But not all of them. So many of these folks we won’t be able to help again until we can re-open.

I’ve read a lot about grief over the past 3 years, and even in the past 2 weeks the articles about grieving what our normal once was. But I didn’t grieve quite as much because I was still going to the building where I worked. I couldn’t help as many people, but there was still a smidge of normalcy there. But tonight? Tonight I feel like I felt the evening before I went to say goodbye to my brother. Or that morning at 2am when I called my sister to tell her to come to the hospital because our father was dying. Or the morning when I was at work and the nurse called to say Mom was actively dying. Strangely enough, this really does feel like all of those awful moments. Those moments when you know your life is forever changed.

I know we’ll come out the other side. I am confident of that. What I don’t know is who will be there with us. Or who will be there with you.

But we’re here now, right? Let’s try to keep moving forward together. Reach out to those you think about, even if they just cross your mind. Those little moments of acknowledgement matter.

You matter.

So let’s be alone together. Just know that when this is over, I may be hugging you a whole heck of a lot.

This Sucks

For just a moment, I want to take a break from COVID-19 and tell you what my life has been like since my last blog post. If we’re friends on Facebook, more than likely you know much of this story.

On Groundhog Day, I took my husband to the ER where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and Influenza A. By the next night, Monday night, he could no longer breathe on his own. He didn’t want to have a breathing tube put in and put on a ventilator (he’s severely claustrophobic) but his only other choice was to die. I sat with him, holding his hand, and he said to me, “It’s so hard to breathe. I can’t do this much longer.” As scared as he was, I was afraid he would choose to die. But at only 52, and having me and our 12-year-old boy, there was too much life to live still. So he chose to live.

The next 2 weeks were hell. Once they intubated my husband, they nearly lost him several times that night. As the doctor said, “We gave him all our ‘Hail Marys’ at the beginning.” That was the only way to keep him alive. I spent much of that Wednesday in the hospital, holding his hand and crying. He was in a medically induced coma at this time. My son and I went to get tested that day and surprise! I had the flu, too. (My son got it the next week.) I was no longer allowed to visit my husband in the ICU until the following Tuesday. I was so angry at the universe and I sobbed and I just couldn’t believe all of this was happening.

Then each day his numbers got a little better. By that Saturday, they thought they might be able to take the tubes out and get him breathing on his own. But they couldn’t wake him up. They ended up doing a cat scan of his brain because he was just flailing and eyes rolling and he couldn’t respond in any way at all. Fortunately his brain was fine, he just couldn’t wake up.

The first day I was allowed to visit him, I stayed the entire day and played music to him and read and talked with him, held his hand, massaged his legs. I kissed him and got mad at him and loved him. It was a really long day. The next morning our son woke up crying. He just wanted to sleep and not go to school and not deal with this fucking nightmare anymore. And I completely understood, but explained we both had a job to do that day. He go to school, I go to work, Papa gets better. And you know what? That day my husband did wake up. Only for a moment, but enough to answer the nurse’s questions. (I called my boy’s school and the principal told him in person that his father had finally woken up. I truly love his school.)

Friday, Valentine’s Day, my husband’s breathing tube was removed and he was able to speak for the first time in 11 days. We had never gone more than two days without speaking to each other in nearly 25 years, so this was a pretty special day.

The next week and a half in the hospital was tough–he was really loopy for a few days and didn’t make much sense. But as he slowly started to get better, it was just difficult to see him so fragile and weak. He lost 40 pounds in four weeks, so his body was just ravaged. But then on February 24th, he finally came home. Those first 2 weeks home were a bit rough, too. He needed more help getting around than I realized and seeing my husband use a walker was really hard for all of us to see.

But now, three weeks later, he can walk for at least 3 minutes at a time with no assistance, can walk a flight of stairs, showers and dresses by himself–these are all huge accomplishments compared to last month. So he’s finally coming back to us.

And then COVID-19 happened. I know we’re all dealing with it–people are sick or dying, schools closed, some folks working from home, our area still in flux. My library is still open but that could change this week. My husband had planned to go to the store this week with our brother-in-law but I have told him he will no longer be allowed out except to the doctor’s office. He laughed out loud but then looked at my face. “Ok. I get it.” His immune system has been compromised and after the nightmare we just went through, I’m not losing the big lug now.

Oh, and did I tell you I have pancreatitis? I’m on Day 9 with no real food–water, jello, chicken broth and bullion and the occasional sip of Gatorade. I just need to keep out of the hospital because my husband still can’t drive and I need to be here. But my numbers are slowly getting better (my doctor is aware and I’m having blood drawn every few days to track this). The pound a day weight loss is nice but I am really freakin’ hungry. But if I can’t yet eat by Friday, the 2-week mark, then I may just have to go to the hospital. Here’s hoping I can beat this on my own!

So now for just a minute, I want to talk about COVID-19 and the effect it’s having on myself and my family. Besides being scared and desperately wanting to escape this dystopian novel, are you angry? I have been so, so angry at the whole situation. Not any person in particular–yes there were plenty of fuck-ups along the way but I’m not mad at a person. I am just feeling so battered and bruised and oh jesus what will happen next?!? We already cancelled our cruise with the help of doctor’s notes and a load of paperwork (I am so thankful for travel insurance and will never go without it again) and who the heck knows about our trip to Florida in April–yet I’m ok with that. If we can’t go, we’ll try again later.

I just want there to be a later. Right?

My family out to see Jim Gaffigan a few years ago.

That picture? That event? To be able to go to a large stadium or arena and listen to music or a comedian or see a play—that is what I want again. I am sure that someday we’ll be there, but I’m also sure our lives have changed forever. I know that after my husband’s hospitalization, my family’s life has changed forever. We have really enjoyed our time together since hubby has been home. He can still drive me crazy, but we no longer take each other for granted. And maybe this virus will do something similar. Maybe we’ll appreciate what we have a little bit more.

Or maybe we’ll go back to our old ways and be jerks to each other.

But I hope not. I hope we can get through this together–but 6 feet apart.

Stay healthy, y’all.

And then….

It’s 2020. The roaring twenties? A new year, a new decade, maybe even a new you? I used to love the beginning of the new year–a fresh start, a clean slate. Time to start eating better, exercising more, doing new things, achieving those goals I couldn’t get to last year, and becoming a new person.

Starting over used to really appeal to me. I used to love the thought that I could become a new person, someone I would like more and others would like me more, too. I really thought that losing weight would do that for me. So I did it. I lost over 85 pounds and kept it off for nearly a decade. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago yesterday I began running. I had already lost the weight I had intended, but now I wanted to challenge myself. And so I did. I became a runner. I became that crazy lady you saw at 5:30 on a winter morning with the head lamp running in the dark. I ran some road races but really just ran for me. Did I like this new person I had become? Sometimes. But not completely like I thought I would.

And then 2017 came along. I started to struggle with running because of injuries and motivation. And then my brother died and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know how to and I honestly didn’t really care to. But I did. I even tried to run some but often I’d start to sob in the middle of the runs or stop a half mile before home and drop to my knees because the darkness just overcame me and I couldn’t put one step in front of the other.

So I stopped. I started to care for both of my parents off and on and tried to parent my son the best I could and still be a wife that was semi-present at least and still work 40 hours a week. I stopped caring for myself or about myself. I was no longer moving forward but backward and if I was lucky, sideways.

Then my husband was laid off. Backwards I went. Then I got a new job directing the library I had loved for over 13 years. A few steps sideways and one forward.

Then my beautiful, hilarious, sweet dad died. Back and back and back…

Then my husband got a new job. A hop forward. Then I broke my arm so badly I needed a metal plate and 9 screws and 6 months later I still can’t completely move it. A step to the back.

And then my mom died. My loving, badass mom. Backwards I fell. Literally. (I passed out the evening of my mother’s service.)

And now we’re here. January 1st, 2020. Am I a new person? Well…yes. I’ve become a new person over and over and over in the past two and half years. Every time an “and then” occurred, I became a new person. Every one of these life-altering events made me into a new person. A different person. I don’t always like the new person I’ve become or am becoming, but that’s something I have to figure out. I don’t even know who I am most of the time, but that’s something else for me to discover and manage.

I do know that losing the 20 pounds I gained these past 2 1/2 years will not make me a new person or happier. Will I try and lose it? Of course! I need to be a healthy me and I need to fit in my clothes better because restrictive clothing makes me a very grumpy Holly and no one needs that. But will I try and lose it by going on a diet? No. I can’t be that person anymore. I’ll eat as best I can, but I’m hoping that running will help me lose some of it.

I hope I do not become that person I used to be that constantly posted my stats or photos of running because honestly? I hated those assholes for the past 2 1/2 years when I didn’t have it in me to run. Look, I know we all need to do it sometimes. We need that encouragement or pat on the back. I get it, I do! I’ve done it many times, too! But I’ve also been on the other side where I couldn’t run due to injury or grief and I felt like my friends were rubbing my nose in it. “Look what I can do and you can’t or won’t, you lazy bitch!” (Hey, I know you didn’t say it and probably didn’t even think it, but my mind just went there.)

So let’s make a deal. I’ll post this photo of the end of my run on Christmas Day.

Me in my dooryard at the end of my first 5K run in eons. This was a happy moment. Just before this run, I had been sitting in my living room sobbing and rocking myself while I thought about my family. There is so much photos don’t say.

This will be it for at least a week. Of course, I’ll probably be on the treadmill or in front of my tv for the next 2 months due to Maine weather, but whatever. Feel free to keep doing whatever you’re doing and posting what you’re posting. If I start being annoying with running posts, tell me to pipe down and give it a rest. I will probably oblige because I’ve been there.

Or I’ll tell you to fuck off because my pants are still too tight and I’m cranky. But I’ll still love you. That much I can promise.

Hail and Farewell

Today on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a long segment entitled “Hail and Farewell” featuring many famous people that died this past year. My husband and I watched in awe and sadness as many performers we knew as kids and teens were gone–the voice of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird, Caroll Spinney; the voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor; musicians Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek (of The Cars); actors Peter Fonda and Diahann Carroll and for us, the absolutely incredible and lovable Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films.

But as the photos passed by on the screen and the narrator talked about these people and their amazing accomplishments, I could only think of the two people that passed away this year that had the most influence on my life.

A rare photo of my parents together and smiling.

My parents may have not influenced a world with their charm or musical ability, but they influenced a generation–their children. My father’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at nearly everything (“You can either laugh or cry, but laughing feels better”) was passed down to the three of us kids, but with my brother embracing that philosophy more than my sister and I. My mother’s work ethic was drilled into each of us, although her obsession with a clean and/or picked up house was certainly a trait I inherited (but I’m not nearly as good at it as she was).

My parents also passed down their love of Christmas and family. Christmas was an event in our home growing up. We were not church going folk and the three of us kids actually became giant skeptics, yet Christmas was “celebrated” by being together. It was our time to be a family and exchange gifts and eat good food and enjoy each other. Truly. Even after my parents were divorced and my stepfather moved in, we all still had Christmas together. It was so strange to other people, but not to us. It was our normal. And I’m absolutely grateful my parents were able to set some issues aside and be together at least once a year.

The tradition continued as we children grew up and found partners and had children. We still all met sometime during the Christmas season to be together. When we had our family Christmas a few weeks ago, my sister and I tried to make our parents proud and have a big extravaganza for our family. We did the usual exchange of gifts and ate great food but we added some games to the mix and made it a little more fun and loud. It was good. But we also felt a great absence. I felt uneasy at times, knowing that something….or someone was missing. At the end of the day, my sister, my husband, my brother-in-law and I all toasted our family–Phil, Dad & Mom–they were sorely missed and will never be forgotten.

And now a new year is about to begin. A new decade without 3/4 of my family. A new year of my son growing to be a little giant and acting and looking so much like my brother. The beginning of my life as an orphan, without the two people I turned to for advice and comfort and love. Another year of living with grief and learning how to keep taking those steps forward without turning to alcohol or food or complete inertia.

I’m beginning 2020 with trying to run again. I’m slow and it’s difficult but I don’t push myself too hard yet. I just move and see what happens. I’ve started taking an antidepressant, hoping that will help move me along, too. I’ve also booked a vacation for my family and I in April so we have something to look forward to.

I need this coming year to be different. I know I can’t have my family back, but I can write about them and you can read about them and their lives will live on in a way. It’s not exactly the way I want it, but I have no choice in the matter. I know I still have guilt and anger and frustration that’s mixed in with my grief that I must deal with, but that is for another day and probably another year.

I don’t know if I’ll make any resolutions for 2020. A friend recently asked people to post on FB what they were most proud of accomplishing this past year, and one of our good friends said, “Surviving.” Maybe that should have been mine, too. I do hope I accomplish a little more than that next year, but it’s always good to have low expectations, right? Maybe instead of surviving, I can make a resolution to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward.

Friends, I wish you all a safe new year and may you be as happy as you can possibly be.

Trying to Care

Since just before Thanksgiving Day, I have walked a mile a day. It’s not a lot, but when my friend and colleague, Sonya, put the challenge out to a private Facebook group, I decided that if I didn’t have it in me to run, that I could at least walk. Some days it’s just marching for 20 minutes in front of my tv, and other days it’s on the treadmill watching Netflix. As long as my mind is occupied and not in tune to what my body is trying to do, then I’m ok.

Today, though, it was 50 degrees at 7:30 in the morning…in Maine…in December. It wasn’t raining, just gloomy. I even had extra time before work. So I had absolutely no excuse to at least walk outside. So I plugged in my headphones and listened to an audiobook for a bit while I trudged a half mile. At that point I thought I could jog past a few telephone poles. I did but tuned into the radio then to give me a little pep. I did this for 2 1/2 miles and thought, “Ok. This is why I used to run. This feeling that I can accomplish something and that I’ll be alright. Now maybe I don’t have to go on antidepressants.” This little jog/walk left me feeling more positive then I’ve felt for a very, very long time.

I got back home, stretched, cleaned up and went to work. Yet minutes after I got to work, I could feel myself deflating. Not just energy-wise but attitude, too. I was starting to feel overwhelmingly sad and emotional and honestly?

I just wanted my Mom.

And my dad.

And my brother.

I can’t always separate my longing for one member of my family. Sometimes I desperately miss one person, but other times I just miss everyone and want to see each of them and talk with them. And not just one more time. Fuck that.

I want many more times.

But I don’t get that right? Right. So…what now?

Thankfully, I got busy at work and then received a really nice email from a friend that was sent just to make me feel good. The combination of the two brought me out of my darkness enough to get me through the day. Once I had a cappuccino in the late afternoon, I felt mostly ok again. I could more than function and went on with my day.

I’m guessing that’s how much of my life will be now. My stepmom told me this week that we have to keep going. We have to keep living somehow and some days will be easier than others. And although I know all of this, I also know I might need some help. I’ve had a bottle of antidepressants in my cupboard for several weeks, but I’m holding off taking them for now. I no longer feel “bad” if I have to take them. I know it’s ok for anyone to ask for help, although I never thought it was ok for me. But after the past two years? If I didn’t ask for help then I’d be even more lost than I feel right now. And that scares me.

For now my helper will sit in my cupboard. I’m done with turning to food or wine for help. The food (and pounds) have just made me feel worse, although sometimes it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I needed some kind of comfort and that quick little hight of “happiness” was what got me through these many months. But now if a walk or run doesn’t help me or if writing this blog doesn’t bring me some sense of comfort or control, then I’ll give the pills a shot.

And if I can find a counselor that I like, then I might give that a try, too. But since I’m a little gun-shy after the last one, I’ll wait. Let’s attempt just one thing at a time.