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. ❤

She Survives

Today would have been my Grammie’s birthday. I kissed her gravestone twice today as I passed it on my run. I live on the land she raised her children on and there was no doubt I was closer to her than any other grandparent. I think of her often, especially when I sit on my porch and look down my yard to the apple trees. This was the same view she had when she sat on her deck–which she didn’t do that often. She was always busy (Mom was so much like her!) although in her later years she took more time out to sit and chat and read and crochet.

My sister and I talk about the “Thibeau Women” sometimes. Grammie’s first marriage was to my grandfather, my mom’s father, and he was a Thibeau. Although really we should talk about the “Bonney Women”, that was Gram’s maiden name. Her mother was an incredibly hard worker like all of her descendants. But they were all more than that. They were survivors.

Myrtle, my Grammie, buried two sons and two husbands. One of her sons died as a baby and another as a toddler. She did raise 4 daughters and one son, most of whom were strong individuals. As I look at them with my eyes now, I see the trauma they all suffered and dealt with in their own ways. My grandfather was an alcoholic and all the stories I’ve heard tell me he was not an easy person to live with, whether you were his child or his wife. He had a heart attack and died on this land I’m living on a short time before I was born.

After that Grammie worked in a local mental institution as a cleaning person. She eventually met her second husband through work. Bruce seemed to be pretty good to my Gram, although his incessant fat comments to me as a 7-year-old contributed to my low self-esteem and self-image that still reigns today. But he was not an alcoholic and he took Grammie traveling around the country which gave her much joy. That’s the one thing I’m grateful to Bruce for. Shortly after I got married, he also had a heart attack and died on this land. (My husband mentions these two deaths often lately. I can see why!)

Grammie has been gone for 18 years now. She died one month before her 85th birthday. Throughout my struggles these past few years, I often wish I could ask her how she did it. How did she get through it all? So, so many women and men dealt with these tragedies and war and food insecurity and they survived. Or many did. I wonder what Grammie thought about when she went to bed at night. I wonder if one reason she was always busy so she didn’t have to think of all she’d lost. Especially her children. I know that her many grandchildren made her happy and her living children did, too, but my god, so much happened to her. And you know, Grammie was very small–under 5 feet tall–but her inner strength seemed immeasurable. All of her children had a healthy dose of fear when it came to her anger, because Gram RARELY got angry. When she did? You better not be at the other end of her wrath because not only did you anger her, but you disappointed her. And that was something no one wanted. We loved and respected her too much to ever want her to feel that way about us.

Grammie, I know you didn’t drink, but I’m toasting you tonight with a margarita. I love you. So damn much. If there is some kind of afterlife, I know you’re there with your children and grandchildren. Hug Phil tight, ok? I can imagine you’ve never left his side. And tell Mom and Dad I love them. And miss them. I miss all of you.

Yes, Grammie is in a wagon.

Cheers to you, Grammie, the Matriarch of the Bad-Ass Bonney, Thibeau and Williams Clans. ❤

Missing You

It’s been a long week. It’s been busy at work, although I’m not complaining about that. It’s been a week of making more community connections which is what I think our library should do. That part of my week has been tiring but in the best way.

The rest of my interactions throughout the week, though, have been emotionally exhausting. I’ve questioned some of my friends’ judgment calls, and then my own. I’ve wondered if the choices I’ve made have really been the best for me. I sat on my porch tonight, just contemplating my life, my little family’s lives, our future. It got me missing the rest of my family more than usual.

If Dad was here, sitting with me on my porch or out on his deck, he’d tell me to do the right thing. Whatever that was. He always encouraged me to do better, or specifically, to do or be better than him. He made many, many mistakes in his lifetime (like every human being on the planet) and lots of bad choices and had many regrets. But he made amends for all of them. Or I think he did. On his deathbed, he worried about all of the mistakes he made and I hope I convinced him otherwise. I tried to. I just don’t know if he heard me.

When Mom was alive, she backed me up on whatever I chose to do. I asked for her advice, and she always threw it back on me and made me think things through and say why I wanted to do things a certain way. And whatever way I chose, she’d say “good choice!” She was my biggest cheerleader. I really, really miss her today.

And if my big brother was here? More than likely he’d just say to do whatever made me happy. Do good if you can (WWSD–What Would Superman Do, or in my case, WWWWD–What Would Wonder Woman Do), but mostly do good for yourself. Life in this world can be so damn horrendous, so be happy whenever you possibly can.

Right now, right at the instant that I’m typing this, I’d give nearly anything to have a hug from my father again. He was the biggest teddy bear that ever lived. His hugs would envelop me and particularly when I was sad, he made me feel so much better. Almost every time he hugged me, he’d make this little “mmmm” sound and say how much he missed me. Then we’d both marvel at the fact that we lived 11 miles from one another but only saw each other once a month or less.

It’s funny how much I still miss both of my parents when I’m feeling a bit lost. I wonder if I’ll ever stop feeling like I need their guidance. Even with Mom having dementia those last 5 years of her life, I still asked for her advice and needed her comfort. And now…

Now I’ll go read a book and go to bed. I know that tomorrow is another day and I’ll probably feel better. The rest of my family is coming over to celebrate my niece’s birthday and to wish all the kids good luck on their first day back at school next week. I can still take comfort in having all of them and my own little family. And they will seek me out to comfort them when they’re feeling down or lost.

And, I suppose, lives go on.

Rain On Me

I miss running. I haven’t done much of it lately due to stress (do I wake up at 4am to run so I can take my husband to his appointment then go to work?) or because my body and mind are incredibly sluggish from said stress and lack of sleep. Yet I become more tired the less I run and feel bad about myself so I eat a bit more and gain weight and feel bad and so on and so on and so on. Have you been on this ride before, too? Yeah. Not my favorite.

But this past week I was determined not to feel bad about myself. I was already missing my brother and I didn’t need to feel worse by treating myself like shit. So I did run on Tuesday then snuck a few walks in the next few days. My son and I went on a fantastic hike on Friday that began with his non-stop complaining and ended with his non-stop praise of the scenery. 🙂 We never saw another soul and loved the isolation. This was followed by amazing gelato at the Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop in Surry with my sister and brother-in-law.

The next day I went on a hike by myself and saw funky mushrooms and another little stream, all while listening to the birds and stopping every once in a while to just look up at the canopy of trees with the sky peeking through. It was cathartic and peaceful and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it, until I met someone at the end who had two dogs, one that barked and growled at me. But even that creature couldn’t ruin my tranquility.

When I woke up this morning to grey skies, I knew if I wanted to run I needed to do it soon. I drank coffee, folded clothes, watched a bit of CBS Sunday Morning (my absolute favorite news show for the positive stories that are portrayed), then decided I could do a little run. I ate a banana, put on my “hanging out at home” clothes instead of my usual running tank and wicking shorts, and went out with the attitude that I was going to have a good time.

Just two minutes in and “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox started to play in my ears. I smiled broadly and looked to the sky. “Thanks, Phil!” I shouted. My brother’s love of Annie Lennox was infectious and this song in particular was always one of our favorites. “I look up to the little bird that glides across the sky. He sings the clearest melody. It makes me want to cry….I wish I could be that bird and fly away from here. I wish I had the wings to fly away from here.”

I can’t fly but I pushed my shoulders back, picked up my head and ran a bit stronger and faster. Even when the rain did start coming down just past mile one, I kept chugging along, looking to the skies.

At mile three I had started to lag a bit, but yelled and waved hello at a few of my neighbors that never acknowledge my existence. (They did today!) A half mile later with the rain coming down in a nice, gentle pitter patter, “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande hummed through my earbuds and right down to my toes. That’s when I saw a lone bird flying through the sky, possibly trying to catch up to its buddies, or just out for a solo jaunt like me.

For once, little bird, I don’t want to fly away from here. Not sure how long I can hold onto that feeling, but I’ll take it today. ❤

That Time of Year

Tomorrow it will be 1,461 days since you had to leave, Phil. I know you didn’t want to. That’s why you told the doctors all that week to keep you alive, because maybe they could make you well enough to have a procedure that might give you a few more years. But there were too many “maybes” and “mights” and “perhaps”, weren’t there? Watching you make the decision to die is still the bravest things I’ve ever seen anyone do. If you were here you’d roll your eyes at me for that and scoff, “Brave? Ha! I don’t think so.” You were often humble but with attitude.

Phil…I’m sorry. I don’t think I said everything you should have heard. You knew how much I loved and love you, right? You knew how cool and funny and wonderful I thought you were, because that was never a secret. Did you know how happy you made me every time you walked into my house or the library? I hope so. I really, really hope so. But I don’t think you had any idea how much of a big empty crater you would leave in my life and every one of our family member’s lives.

I still don’t know who I am without you. I’m not the same person I was 4 years ago, but I don’t even remember who she was. I just….I still feel so lost some days, Phil. You know, the other day, Wally was reminiscing about something and it reminded me of Dad’s house and how he had his bedroom downstairs set up. But I couldn’t quite remember it all, and I’m going to ask our sister but I don’t think she was around much then. You and Dad are the only ones who might remember. I got so fucking sad and started bawling on the spot. So many questions will go unanswered because you’re not here to answer them. NO ONE is left to answer them. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!?

I wish you were here. Jesus fucking christ all to hell I wish you were here. I still miss you every. single. day. I still wonder what you would think about a variety of books and songs and movies and television shows and food and drinks. I’ve been making a variety of these literary cocktails lately and my friend, Tiffany said she thought you’d like the whole idea of them. I think she’s right. “The Joy of Sex on the Beach”* would probably be a fave of yours just for the picture in the book. I mean, look at that! I can just hear your comments about the tongue, the phallic “cocktail” glass…yup. You’d love this one. 😉

*From the book, “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist’ by Tim Federle. Published in 2013 by Running Press Adult.

Tomorrow night, your sisters will toast you with a drink or two. Your nephew and I will go for a hike in a new place, will experience a new adventure in honor of you, like we have done each year since you’ve been gone. More than likely we will all have a good time at some point during the day, but we would trade those moments in a blink of an eye to be with you again and listen to you tell a naughty joke or hear you laugh once more.

I love you, big brother. So. Damn. Much. And if you didn’t get the subtle message before, I’ll spell it out for you. I. MISS. YOU. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

Hugs and sloppy kisses. ❤

Losses and Gains

Today should have been Dad’s 80th birthday. I say “should have”, although he would probably disagree. He was shocked to make it past 70 and he was 2 months shy of his 78th birthday when he died. I also should have run my first marathon today, in honor of Dad. But neither of those things happened.

Yesterday, just like with Mom on Mother’s Day, I visited Dad’s grave. Since it was a Saturday close to Memorial Day, there were a bunch of people in the cemetery, which I hated. Dad would have waved to most folks that were nearby and say “How are ya?” (although it would sound like “Whyya”), but I just kept my head down and set up our picnic.

Dad used to make whirligigs, some were funny, some obscene, and some were just cute. I didn’t plan well enough but for the moment I placed a few small pinwheels, just to have something moving in the breeze. I brought my dad Cheez-Its, which were one of his favorite snacks. There’s an inside joke between my husband and my dad and they used to exchange a box of these crackers nearly every Christmas. It all stemmed from the time my then fiancé drove my dad to Pennsylvania for my graduate school graduation, and my father ate a whole box of Cheez-Its…and proceeded to have horrible gas…and they were trapped inside this little Ford Escort with hours left to drive. It was something they both used to laugh about and bonded over as only men can.

Once I set out snacks and my water bottle, I just sat in front of Dad’s stone and plucked the grass around it and ran my hands over the smooth stone. I could hear people around me, including a man about 20 feet from me laughing into his phone. I tried to block him and the others out, when I started to cry. I was angry and overcome with that loss again–that emptiness I feel when I realize I can never have another conversation with my father. But also the absurdity of the situation. I was bringing my father treats he would never eat again. His body was far beneath the ground I was sitting on and I know this because my sister and I helped put his body in that fucking hole. And all around me people are planting bushes and flowers to sit around these stones with our loved ones names carved into them. But…why?

I wiped my eyes and started to talk to Dad. I told him I loved and missed him. Told him we were all surviving, how tall my son is, how work is going. The usual things we discussed when he was alive. But Dad also liked to have deeper conversations. For a man that never liked to read, he did like to deconstruct thoughts or ideas. And I know some of what he’d say about his grave and stone. He never wanted to be cremated because he said, “I’ll be close enough to hell as it is.” He was traditional in some ways, hence the funeral home visiting hours, the church funeral, the burial. All the stuff that I hate, but the stuff that he and his wife knew and understood. But as I sat there, I also got it, I understood. In a way, I do like being able to “visit” my father. I like being able to still give him things, even if that’s just a plant or a plaque or mints (my father always had mints of some kind and I leave at least one wintergreen lifesaver every time). I do talk to him occasionally when I’m home or somewhere else, so I don’t save that for the cemetery. Honestly I usually get upset when I go to Dad’s grave in particular because I can’t feel him. I’ve visited his grave on days that I just really wanted to talk with him, and I’ve always left even more bereft then when I arrived because he’s not there. I always think that I’ll feel something, like his spirit is somehow there, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. But…I also don’t even believe in spirits anyway! See how confused I am?

I just want to believe in something because it’s too devastating to think my parents and brother are just…gone.

No longer exist.

Dead. Forever.

So…I continued to talk to Dad. Why the hell not? The cemetery cleared out, the breeze died down and the black flies started to swarm. “Dad, I’m going to go, ok? As you would say, the black flies are about to pick me up and slam me to the ground!” I kissed his grave stone and told him I’d be back next month.

When I drove home, I saw the sign for the Robyville Bridge–a historic covered bridge in Corinth. I had been there before but I felt the need to go there again. I just took a few photos, avoided the couple that was there as much as possible, walked then ran across the bridge. That need I felt to go to the bridge was like a need to feel alive, to experience something new. Even something as simple as looking at, admiring and running across a covered bridge fulfilled that need.

As I woke up this morning, the day I should have been running for hours and hours and had trained for for many months, I figured I might as well try to start training again. So far my leg is better (although I am now aware that could change at any time). My heart isn’t in it as much as before, but hopefully that will change. The run I took was just 4 miles this morning, but it was already 73 degrees and humid at 9am. It wasn’t a pleasant run for the first half. At the 2.75 mile mark, I had to walk (or shuffle) and drink more water. The sun was frying my brain and destroying my will to go on, until I heard the lovely tune of two geese squawking and flying in the sky just behind me. I have this thing for geese, and often wonder if it’s my family hanging out near my house. And today, after the geese flew over, the clouds rolled in and cooled things down just a tad and I immediately felt better. I laughed out loud and decided that my parents were giving me some support and urging me to keep going. So I did.

This afternoon, I took my son to an international food festival at the high school near where I work, and we ate SO MUCH. One or both of us tried a food from every single country they had (except for Japan because they weren’t ready). We couldn’t pronounce some of the foods, a few were things we had eaten before, and others seemed strange but were typically delicious. It was a fun experience and one that I know the rest of my family would have enjoyed. If food was involved, my father would have been happy. He might have been a meat and potatoes man, but he was willing to try just about anything. It was a great way for us to honor Dad today.

Then on the way home from the festival, I saw a turtle in the road. Over the years, my mother picked up many, many turtles and sometimes brought them home. I distinctly remember finding a turtle in our bathtub on at least two occasions. I always stop for turtles and try to shoo them to the other side of the road. Typically my son hates it, but today he helped me and we just walked behind the turtle, moving it along so cars wouldn’t kill it. Seeing the turtle felt like a little “hello” from Mom…if I believed in that sort of thing.

And now as I sit here, thinking about the days ahead, I am a bit relieved that there are a few weeks until Father’s Day and my brother’s birthday–they happen to fall on the same day this year. A double whammy. Maybe I’ll have a few more gains and pluses and good moments before then. Maybe I’ll have more bad days than good. No matter what though, I will keep remembering, keep running if physically possible, and keep my eyes to the sky. Because you just never know, right? You just never know.

All the Days I Hate

In chronological order:

St. Patrick’s Day–I watched my father die that day.

Mother’s Day

May 23–Dad’s birthday

Father’s Day

June 20–My brother’s birthday

July 23–I said goodbye to my brother that day.

September 20–Mom’s birthday

October 4–I held my mother’s hand for the last time.

Someday, I hope I won’t dread some of these days. I hope that I won’t feel sick the entire week before or have the powerful urge to somehow escape my surroundings and my feelings and my brain on the day of. With Mother’s Day here, I am horribly conflicted. I have felt all those things this entire week and I had planned to do exactly what I did today–visit my mother’s grave so “we” could talk and eat and drink coffee. Just like we did every Saturday for the last two years of her life. And this morning after a meeting for work, I found myself antsy. I vacuumed and made blueberry muffins to take to Mom and just…puttered around the house, like Mom would say. I felt the overwhelming need to leave and go to her, but I kept pushing it off because it wouldn’t be the visit I wanted.

I finally did go. I packed up a bag with goodies and a blanket to sit on and I drove the back way to the cemetery in the town I grew up in. I passed houses that friends used to live in, including my own childhood home that is now abandoned. I saw new houses and roads that never existed before and wondered what my parents would have to say about them. Just like anytime I drive through my hometown, the memories came back–many good, many awful–and I grew angry at myself for driving this route. But once I got to the cemetery, my tension started to ease. I poured Mom a cup of coffee, gave her a muffin, and settled myself on a blanket in front of her. I talked about the pandemic, masks, our family, my friends. I asked her if she’s with Phil or my stepfather or my dad or Grammy. I prefaced that question with “So…if there IS an afterlife…” (What can I tell ya? I’m an agnostic which means I have no idea what the heck anything is or will be.) As I asked about our family, I started to cry and told her I missed her. Then I couldn’t stop crying. I rocked myself and said, “See Mom? THIS is why I try not to cry!” And as I’m writing this, I can hear Mom say, “Oh, I know, I know!” and almost feel her hug and hear her sniffle and wipe her nose.

But because it IS Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my own motherhood. Sort of. I honestly just want to hide in a room for a day and drink cocktails and watch sad movies. But my son told me just this morning that he wants to make me dinner. My 14-year-old gentle giant of a boy, whom my mother adored more than any other person on the planet, has decided that he does indeed want to do something kind for his mother on Mother’s Day. (Last month he told me just to buy what I wanted for a gift and he’d pay for it—which is really me paying for it since he gets an allowance from me.)

A friend told me yesterday to try and do something for myself this weekend, like go for a run or have a drink or just do something to make me feel good. And I will. I hope to run on Sunday morning, eat brunch with my family, have a drink with a friend via Zoom, and eat dinner made by my child. All the while I will be thinking of Mom and her laugh and her raisin-filled cookies and her eerily strong grip. Seriously. This woman could break your bones with her hands if she wanted to.

Mom and I on my wedding day, 1997.

I miss you, Mom. Every day.

Love you forever, love you for always.

Strength

Since my doctor gave me the go ahead to gently start walking and running again after my likely stress fracture, I’ve only been out a handful of times. Two weeks ago I ran and although it was tough and slow and my lungs hurt, it still felt glorious to have the freedom to run again. Then I took a few days off, rode my bike and lifted weights…and my leg started to hurt. No swelling, but a similar type of pain. So, once again, I took a few weeks off.

After a week of occasional walks, I just had to try again this morning. Sunday mornings have been my typical long run days since I started running a decade ago. I’ve done all of my half marathons on Sundays, and had hoped to run my marathon on a Sunday. I tend to feel antsy on Sunday mornings if I’m not getting ready to head out for a run. My body starts to zing a little, like I have this bit of nervous energy and I often get butterflies in my stomach.

But Sundays are also extremely complicated for me. My brother and father both died on Sundays, so emotionally I am not at my best. The Sunday my brother died, I woke up early that morning, knowing that it would be the last day I saw him and the last day he would be on this planet. The day my dad died, I was woken at 2am by a phone call from my stepsister to say that Dad was in the hospital and I might want to get there. That Sunday was filled with the phone call to my sister telling her she should come to the hospital, talking with doctors and nurses, and watching my stepmother having to make that decision no one wants to. So…yeah. Sundays still fill me with a bit of dread.

But this morning, after reading a book and eating a light breakfast, I geared up for a walk. Not a run. I just needed that fresh air and what little sunshine there was peeking through the clouds. But after a half mile, I needed to pick it up. Just a little. So I jogged for a bit, then walked. I did this for about a mile and a half, then realized our friend, Bam Bam was following me.

After chatting with him for a minute, I headed back home. I ran the mile and a half back with my hamstrings aching, my hips feeling tight, and feeling extraordinarily heavy. You know, I’ve been riding my stationary bike and lifting weights and walking when I can, but there’s nothing like a run to make you feel weaker and more out of shape than you ever thought possible!

But I finished the 5K, walked a bit, stretched, and felt…alive. And tired. Crikey, I was tired! But that good tired when you know you’ve exhausted your body to a point that muscles ache and your brain goes quiet.

I wish that running was not so intrinsically tied to my mental health. I wish there was something inside of me that could make me feel good about myself like running does. It’s something I hope to work on in the near future. But for now, I’m just happy I got to run. ❤

Talk to Someone

Five months after my brother died and just weeks after I moved my mother in with my family, I decided to talk to a counselor–the first time in over 12 years. But just trying to work out the logistics to get to that appointment stressed me out so much that I remember screaming in my car on the way there. I kept saying “I am never going to fucking do this again!” I only went to the counselor twice because she was absolutely horrible when it came to grief. At one point I was crying in her office, telling her how much I missed Phil, and what does she say? “He’s still with you, Holly.”

Really?!? Can I sit and talk to him and he talks back? Is he going to tell me a joke and give me advice on raising my son? Will he still be at my son’s high school graduation that he tried so fucking hard to live for? No, you goddamned bitch, HE’S. NOT. HERE.

Of course, me being the person I was (not sure I’m still that person), I just nodded and whispered, “I know.” Inside, though, I immediately deflated. (The anger came later.) I knew she would not be able to help me. On a side note, she was extremely helpful in helping with some issues with my mom and her jackass boyfriend. So the counselor was not useless at least.

Since those counseling sessions, I’ve only pondered finding someone else to talk to. After Dad’s death and especially after Mom’s, I thought, “Ok. You might want to talk with someone, Holly. This is a lot of shit to deal with.” I was so exhausted by fucking everything that I passed out momentarily in my kitchen after my mother’s celebration of life, with my poor son freaking out and calling his father who was out of state at the time. But I still didn’t ask for help. I barely even took time off of work. Then my husband nearly died, and once he came home I encouraged HIM to go to counseling. (When you’re in a coma for a while, there are many gaps in memory and events and it’s difficult for your brain to fill that time in.) Instead, I became HIS counselor and tried to help him sort out what happened to him and what was happening in my world at that time. But I didn’t go and talk to anyone then either. I started drinking most nights–just one drink–but I felt like I *needed* it, along with my anti-depressant. Hell, I often swallowed my pill with a swig of wine! (And no, this is not advisable.) Then, of course, the pandemic hit and didn’t everyone need a therapist at that point? I looked into Betterhelp.org, but they wanted to match me with a male counselor who, in my mind looked like either a serial killer or a child molester.

Yup. He looked like Kevin Spacey.

So, no. I decided to not go that route. Instead I read books like “Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life” by Christie Tate and listened to Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, a podcast about mental health. And, of course, I kept running.

But we all know how that last thing turned out, right? Yeah. So then I started to worry about what I was eating and without running would I start binging or restricting food? I mentioned in my last post that I reached out to a dietician, but after thinking about it, I knew I needed more help than that. So I did a little search on counselors in the area that specialized in eating disorders. Then lo and behold, one of my dear friends from my past was a counselor for this very thing. When I saw her name, I immediately called and left a message. I knew she couldn’t be my counselor, but I trust her and knew she’d have someone in mind.

Then St. Patrick’s Day came–the anniversary of Dad’s death. And then I read a book that reminded me of my brother and I sobbed while eating lunch at work. Then I found one of my mother’s tote bags and it still smelled like her. And then…and then…and then…

You, readers, have been my sounding board for years now and although it certainly helps me to hear advice and anecdotes and to feel the love you’ve shared and showed me, I know I need to do something else, too. So when I talked to my friend, I asked her to help me find someone that could help me with MANY problems/issues/dilemmas, or in other words, life. I’ve only corresponded with this new counselor once, just so she has an idea of what I want to work on, but I won’t get to actually talk or meet with her until May. But, you know, once I had a name and heard her voice and read her email, it gave me this little high. Kind of like when you’re about to go on a first date and you have butterflies and possibly high expectations (I am trying to squash those) but more than anything, you’re filled with hope. This person you’re about to meet could possibly change your life for the better. And in this case, maybe help ME change MY life for the better.

We’ll see. Until then, I will carry on. Because that’s what I do. Because that’s what we all do, right? I can’t say I “keep calm and carry on” because my bursts of anger refute that phrase, but maybe you do? Whether you’re calm and serene, or pissy like me, let’s just keep going, ok?

LET’S. KEEP. GOING.